BUTTON UP

Seeking advice on how to get to the top — and enjoy the view — The Rake joined the former F1 world champion Jenson Button in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, where the Briton was kicking off a new and very green rally championship.

Jenson Button and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky at the Extreme E Desert X Prix in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, in April (Photo by Steven Tee / LAT Images)

Jenson Button was Formula One’s cheerful yet tenacious underdog who, when he finally got his hands on a winning car, never looked back. On entering the sport in 2000, he was the youngest Briton in F1 history. In 2009, aged 29, he achieved his dream of becoming world champion. Popular throughout his 17 seasons, he developed a reputation for silky-smooth driving (which was kind to the car and its tyres), being quickest in the wet, and for motivating his engineers when they were down. He was also willing to take a huge pay cut when his team was on its uppers, which enabled him and Brawn G.P. to go on and make history.

He’s one of only two drivers to have beaten Lewis Hamilton in the same team over the course of a season (he did so at McLaren in 2011; the other was Nico Rosberg at Mercedes in 2016). In total, JB won 15 grands prix and eight pole positions from 306 starts. Having retired from F1, in 2018 he won Japan’s Super GT championship and raced in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. He’s still a regular presence in the paddock in his punditry role for Sky Sports F1.

For 2021, the 41-year-old has taken on a remarkable new challenge. Extreme E is racing electric SUVs off-road across landscapes that are under threat from climate change, including deserts, rainforests and glaciers. The philanthropic championship is funding environmental research, and promotes diversity in its 50/50 split of male and female drivers. Button is the owner of the JBXE team and is competing himself, against rally legends such as Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb.

Born and raised in Somerset, he spent most of his professional life living in Monaco, but moved to Los Angeles four years ago when he fell in love with the swimsuit model Brittny Ward. They have a son, aged two, and a daughter, born last December.

Contributor

Adam Hay-Nicholls

Published

July 2021

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