Jen­son But­ton

F1 Racing - - SEASON PREVIEW 2016 - WORDS POR­TRAITS

World cham­pion, rac­ing icon, sport­ing su­per­star... Jen­son is all this and more. Yet he’s about to face his tough­est test yet: a grilling by the F1 pad­dock

Af­ter sur­viv­ing 16 years in the F1 viper pit, you’d ex­pect to have ac­quired a few en­e­mies. There would be a scar or three, surely, from knives in­serted be­tween the shoul­der blades. You’d want to make sure you could still count all the ngers on your hands af­ter in­nu­mer­able hand­shakes of ques­tion­able in­tegrity. You’d have grown a hard­ened shell, un­seen but im­pen­e­tra­ble and ever-present, to guard against un­wel­come in­ter­ac­tion. And most cer­tainly, af­ter 284 grands prix and count­ing, you would ex­pect your en­thu­si­asm to have dimmed some­what.

Yet de­spite hav­ing es­sayed an en­vi­ably long and com­pet­i­tive F1 ca­reer, none of this ap­plies to Jen­son But­ton. Though un­doubt­edly now an el­der states­man in a driver cadre that in­cludes such ea­ger pups as 18-year-old Max Ver­stap­pen, But­ton re­mains sharp, fo­cused, hun­gry… all the myr­iad at­tributes needed to make up the pack­age of a com­plete grand prix driver.

In For­mula 1 terms he has be­come some­thing of a na­tional trea­sure – a re­spected pres­ence so in­te­gral to the sport’s pro­ceed­ings, it seems al­most unimag­in­able that a grand prix could start with­out him.

And, as F1 Rac­ing dis­cov­ered in pre­par­ing for this ‘They Ask The Ques­tions’ in­ter­view, JB also has an aw­ful lot of friends in F1. Rarely – in fact, never, in our ex­pe­ri­ence – have pad­dock peers been so keen to par­tic­i­pate in one of th­ese be­spoke Q&As, cre­ated by ask­ing them what ques­tion they would like to put to Jen­son.

He car­ries his po­si­tion gra­ciously, still putting en­ergy into me­dia time, for ex­am­ple, when many might long ago have be­come bored with such du­ties. En­joy, then, his hon­est an­swers to this peer-group in­ter­ro­ga­tion. For there is, af­ter all, only one Jen­son Alexan­der Lyons But­ton.

You’ve been team-mate to both Lewis Hamil­ton and Fer­nando Alonso. How do they dif­fer? Who is bet­ter? David Coulthard [A groan from Jen­son] Read the pa­pers! [Laugh­ter from a bushy-bearded McLaren press aide]. I an­swered this ques­tion yes­ter­day! F1 Rac­ing: You seemed to say that Alonso was a tougher ght… JB: In a race sit­u­a­tion, Fer­nando is very con­sis­tent. Lewis can be un­be­liev­ably quick, but on an­other day you’d won­der where he was. Maybe he has more ex­pe­ri­ence now. Maybe Lewis is a dif­fer­ent driver to­day. It is three years since we raced to­gether [But­ton and Hamil­ton were McLaren team-mates from 2010-2012].

Would you have liked me to be your team boss? Claire Wil­liams Would you have liked me to be your driver?! F1R: I’d say from that she prob­a­bly would… JB: It sounds like it, is what I’d say to that.

What did you nd in the bed when you bought that mo­torhome off me in 2003? Mika Salo Noth­ing! The only thing I did nd was that there was no Har­ley David­son on it… he had a Har­ley sprayed the same colours as the mo­torhome. That mo­torhome ended up be­ing my man­ager’s, so it has done the rounds. But it’s a great old bus. I loved it. And, for me, that sort of liv­ing around a grand prix week­end is the way it’s got to be. F1R: Is it still in cir­cu­la­tion? JB: It’s some­where, yes. Around mo­tor­sport.

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