F1 World Champion Jenson Button On His Racing Past, Present & Future — Including His Project With Ant Anstead

Jenson ButtonPhoto Credit: Williams Racing
Anyone who knows Formula 1 is familiar with Jenson Button MBE. The World Champion famously won the British Super Prix in 1989, aged NINE and the following year, he made the leap from karts to cars. He won the British Formula Ford championship, with nine wins for Haywood Racing, and triumphed in the prestigious Formula Ford Festival. After such a successful transition to racing cars, he won the 1998 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award, and at 19, he entered the British Formula Three championship with Promatecme and won three races, finishing the year as the top rookie. He got his big break in Formula 1 in 2000 with Williams Racing. He became the youngest British driver to start an F1 race, aged just 20 years, as he made his debut in Australia.  Jenson’s maiden Grand Prix victory came in 2006 as he won a remarkable Hungarian Grand Prix after starting 14th on the grid. Jenson arrived at McLaren as reigning world champion in 2010 and immediately got off to a great start with wins in Australia and China. He continued with McLaren Honda until the end of the 2017 season, where he played a critical part in developing and improving the technical package. In January 2021, Jenson joined Williams Racing — the only Anglo-American-owned racing team, and one that has secured 16 FIA F1 World Championships, at that — as Brand Ambassador on a multi-year deal, 21 years after he first raced for the team. Jenson also launched JBXE to compete in the all-electric SUV off-road racing series Extreme E from the 2021 season. Here, this British F1 champ talks about his racing past, his present — which includes the new Miami Fashion Collection — and his future, which includes designing cars with none other than TV presenter and motor specialist Ant Anstead. 

Jenson ButtonPhoto Credit: Karwai Tang/Getty Images

 Let’s talk F1. The race will soon be in three major American cities. What do you think has prompted the increase in interest?

It’s an amazing time for Formula 1 in America. I’m here in Miami right now and the vibe around the race is one of the most exciting I’ve ever experienced. America is really embracing it. I think Drive to Survive has had a part to play as people love seeing behind-the-scenes and it’s allowed viewers to get to know the personalities of the drivers, who are usually wearing a helmet.

Where do you feel the most exciting location will be and why?

I’m super excited for Miami just because it’s the first time ever F1 has been brought to the city. I’m excited to see our drivers hit the track at the Hard Rock Stadium, especially some of those turns. A third US race has been announced and F1 will go to Las Vegas next November, which is going to be spectacular.

Jenson ButtonPhoto Credit: Williams Racing

You’ve been a brand ambassador for Williams Racing since last year. Tell us about your relationship with the team, why it means so much for you to be involved with them.

It puts a big smile on my face being with Williams again. I started my career in Formula 1 with Williams. I still remember that time I walked in Frank’s office at the Barcelona circuit where we’d been testing, the moment he told me that I had to drive. I walked in. He said, “Jenson, we’ve decided that you’re going to be racing alongside Ralf Schumacher.” I was 19 at the time. I’m like, “oh my gosh,” and he said, “and in 30 minutes you’re going to tell the world.” I said “Oh, thanks for the warning.” So yeah, nothing’s changed.

With the first-ever Formula 1 race in Miami, can you tell us what to expect of Williams Racing, and the season thus far? Who have you been impressed with?

Since it’s the first race in Miami, Williams went all out with plenty of action going on all week long. At our main base we have a Williams Esports Rig (racing simulator) where you can experience racing virtually and snap a pic with the FW44 Formula 1 show car. The team is also be at the W South Beach hotel where you will get the chance to check out our spectacular graffiti liveried FW41, designed by contemporary Los Angeles based artist, SURGE. Sergio J. Quinonez, aka Surge. Drive wise, I am super impressed with Nicholas Latifi and Alex Albon. I think they are going to crush it this weekend!

Jenson ButtonPhoto Credit: Williams Racing

What is the most challenging part of racing, in your opinion? What obstacles do you have to constantly overcome?

Formula 1 is a very high pressured sport and something that I’ve talked a bit about is anxiety that I experienced when I was racing and I know a lot of drivers experience. It’s talked about a lot more now, but when I was racing it was difficult you never want to ask for help and it’s seen as a weakness, which it’s not. Resolving the issues and getting over the issues is a strength and a better way of looking at it.

What does it take to truly become a F1 champion?

A lot of hard work and sacrifice, true desire and passion for the sport. Race wins provide a massive adrenaline hit – whereas winning the world title was more of a relief. It’d been a tough year, a great year at the beginning, and then sort of a slump through the year, and then a great ending. But when you wake up in the morning, you think, ‘Damn, I’m a world champion”, you don’t think about the race wins. So the world championship lives with you forever.

What do you have coming up for the remainder of the year?

As part of the reborn of Radford Motors, Ant Anstead and I have been developing and producing our own sports cars as a part of the coachbuilding company which has been an incredible process. I needed something to really sink my teeth into, a new challenge and this has been just the best experience, especially with a friend like Ant. I’m also going to be trying electric racing and competing in Nitro Rallycross. And I’ve recently launched my own blended Scotch, called Coachbuilt, so that’s a really exciting venture for me. Also, Williams Racing has launched an exciting limited-edition Miami Fashion collection that has something for everyone. It includes a classic Hawaiian shirt, bucket hat, Miami print beach shorts, trucker hats, beach towels and beach bags. The collection is available to order at www.williamsf1.com but fans in Miami will also be able to get their hands on it at our Miami base at 846 Lincoln Road from Saturday, April 30th through the race week.

Jenson ButtonPhoto Credit: Williams Racing