Jenson Button

Jenson Button

Jenson Button 150 150 Frome Heritage Museum

Another famous and much more recent son of Frome is the 2009 Formula 1 world champion, Jenson Button. You may perhaps live in Jenson Avenue or you may well have crossed the River Frome on the Jenson Button Bridge very close to the museum. You may have consoled yourself that Frome’s world champion driver failed his driving test first time round and you may have enjoyed a meal in ‘The Frome Flyer’ assuming erroneously that the place too is named after him: it isn’t in fact because the name actually refers to the stage coaches that used to trundle (rather more slowly than Button!) up to London.

But Jenson Button has strong links with Frome and with Vobster where he lived as a child. He attended Selwood Middle School and Frome Academy, began his rallycross career locally and has returned from time to time to a hero’s welcome in the town, most famously when he drove his Formula 1 car through Market Place before turning on the town’s Christmas lights in 2013. (Fortunately, there was no 20 mph speed limit in those days!) His autobiography, ‘My Championship Year’, was published by Butler and Tanner in the town.

Unlike Damon Hill or Lewis Hamilton, Button enjoyed just one really successful season on the Grand Prix circuit but his was a Cinderella story that really caught the public imagination. His world title was something that even his most ardent supporters could have predicted at the start of the calendar year. At the end of 2008, his Formula One career looked over when his Honda team quit the sport, leaving the future of the whole outfit in jeopardy. For months it looked as though he and teammate Rubens Barrichello would be left without a drive, but at the eleventh hour, Ross Brawn bought out the remains of the team and salvaged it from the brink. But with a winter of uncertainty, nothing could have been expected from the phoenix that had risen from the ashes.

But his car was fast, so fast that Button won the season opener in Australia. The Frome racer was quick to show that this was no freak result, as he won six of the opening seven rounds to establish a 26 point lead that was to prove unassailable. Results tailed off in the second half of the season as rival teams caught and eventually passed the underfunded Brawn team and the pressure of a title battle took effect, but Button clinched the title at the penultimate race of the season in Brazil. No wonder he was awarded the Freedom of Frome soon afterwards. The museum holds a huge collection of newspaper and magazine articles about Button, his triumph on the world scene and his subsequent career.