One of the most valuable assets an F1 team can have is the knowledge and experience of a former World Champion at their disposal.
Mercedes had Niki Lauda in their corner, Alain Prost spent four years with the Alpine team as an advisor and for Williams Jenson Button has played a crucial role assisting drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi on and off track. In 2000 Button drove for the Williams and team and he later returned to the UK-based team in 2021 in a senior advisor role. In just one year in his new role, the 2009 F1 World Champion and Super GT series Champion has shared his enormous amount of knowledge and racing experience that has been beneficial for both Williams drivers and for the team as a whole.
Both Latifi and Russell spoke about the positive experiences that they have had with Button this past season highlighting how the former F1 driver’s expertise has been priceless to them as drivers and to team personnel.
“Since Jenson joined, he’s been a great asset to the team. Obviously earlier with Covid still an issue he wasn’t in the factory so much… but I mean he obviously has a wealth of experience in the sport and the unique perspective as a driver which is good for me personally, and even his old race engineer [Dave Robson] is with our team as well so we have a relationship as well," Latifi said.
“Yes, just from working with the team from that side, I see him [Button] talking to the engineers and giving his opinion on what he’s been seeing, which I’m sure is valuable to them.
“I guess from the personal side, I’m still very new to Formula 1. He's given me little words of wisdom on starting out, good approaches, bad approaches and whatnot and yes, just the odd little bits of encouragement after qualifying or after the race if I manage to bump into him.”
Russell described how he had a close relationship with Button before he rejoined the Williams team as a senior advisor and how valuable the 42-year old’s experience has been not only for guidance as a sounding board to discuss ideas.
“I’ve been fortunate even prior to Jenson joining Williams again that I had a good relationship with him, and he was very open and always there whenever needed… but he’s more so now actually due to the Covid rules [that] have opened up,” Russell stated.
“[He’s] always in the garage, in the hospitality, talking to the engineers, to myself, to Jost [Capito, CEO of Williams] and I think that’s really great, just to sound ideas off him and get his feedback and input from his own experiences because obviously he’s had a huge amount of experience. So it’s in ways unique to have somebody like Jenson a part of your team.”
So far with Button’s counsel on hand, the Williams team has had a memorable 2021 season. Russell secured his first podium at the Belgian Grand Prix, the last time the Williams team scored a top 3 finish was in 2017. Russell managed to score a total of 16 points with four top 10 finishes while his teammate Latifi earned 7 points and two top 10 results fur the 2021 season. This was a drastic improvement from the 2020 season where both drivers were not able to secure any points for the Williams team (Russell scored three points at the Sakir Grand Prix when he drove Lewis Hamilton’s car for Mercedes when he had COVID-19).
This 2022 season will see a different driver line up for the Williams team with Russell joining Mercedes.
Former Red Bull driver Alex Albon will return to F1 and will drive alongside Latifi. Since Button signed a multi-year agreement with Williams as a senior advisor last year, the Brit will have ample opportunities to share more of his knowledge and expertise with both Latifi and Albon for the new season.