Hooray for Jenson Button! He’s only gone and won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championships 11 months after it looked like he might not have a team to drive for this season. And he’s the second British champion in a row, following Lewis Hamilton’s victory last season. And he seems like a bloody nice bloke (see our interview, below). And he’s handsome. And we have undeniable evidence that FHM was instrumental in Jenson feeling so relaxed (LOOK, HERE) before he took his title at the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend. So: here’s an interview with the man from before he was a hero.
After all the much-publicised contract negotiations you’re staying with BAR Honda. Is it a relief it’s all over?
Yeah, I’m delighted I’ll be staying with BAR for the next few years. 2005 has been challenging but we’ve bounced back from our problems and the team is much stronger as a result.
Fernando Alonso has bagged this year’s world title. Can you win it with BAR next year?
Yeah, I want to be at BAR Honda to see that happen – and I believe that it will happen. I also have a new team-mate in Rubens Barrichello and I look forward to the two of us pushing each other to keep driving the team forward.
Okay, now the important stuff. Could a woman compete in F1?
There’s a girl out there called Danica Patrick and she’s very quick. She finished fourth in the Indy 500, which is the biggest race in America. But in F1 cars I can’t see it happening because of the G-force in high-speed corners. And one week of the month you wouldn’t want to be on the circuit with them, would you?
Very true. Would their boobs get in the way?
Well, obviously it depends how big they are. But a girl with big boobs would never be comfortable in the car. And the mechanics would have too much fun too, they wouldn’t concentrate on the job. Can you imagine them strapping her in?
Point taken. You drive fast cars, earn millions and are surrounded by beautiful women. What’s the downside of being in F1?
Yeah, where did it all go wrong, eh? There are downsides because it’s a very busy schedule. We do a lot of fitness training, we spend a lot of time doing PR events, and you know everyone will know everything you do because of the newspapers. That’s got to be the worst. I’m just a sportsman, I compete in races; I didn’t expect the media to be like?this at all.
But you’ve mostly managed to stay out of the papers…
Up until recently. They’re trying to get every story they possibly can and hardly any of them are true.
Is it hard being a single man again with the press intrusion?
That is tough yeah, and it’s annoying because it does hurt people when they print things. It’s tough but you’ve got to be very careful.
They’re very nosy aren’t they?
Yeah, they can be…
It’s disgraceful. So were you really seeing Naomi Campbell?
You are taking the piss aren’t you?
No. That’s what we heard!
No, there was a picture in the newspaper of me giving her my jacket because it was chilly but that was it. No, I wasn’t seeing her, honestly. I want to stay single; I’ve come out of a five-year relationship with a great girl that I love to death still, but the reasons why I did it was that I want to be single, enjoy myself and hang out with my mates.
And are you doing that?
Yeah, but I’ve got to be careful because I’ve got to be fit. I’ve got to look after myself but I can still have a bit of fun.
When your mates go drinking with multi-millionaire Jenson Button do they always expect you to get the beers in?
Never! My mates are great like that. Most of them are from Somerset and when we go out I try and pay but they don’t let me. It’s good that they don’t expect me to pay for everything.
Who’s the dirtiest driver in F1?
Er… most people are close to the limit in the way they drive. But for me, Mark Webber seems like he can go a little too far. He’s a bit win or bust but you’ve got to be careful because you can’t do that all the time.
Is it true that if we drove your car our neck would snap?
It probably wouldn’t snap but… you’ve got a pretty small neck. You’ve got a girl’s neck…
How rude! Why’s it a girl’s neck?
It’s non-existent. You see that lampshade behind you? [points to thin lampshade]. It’s like that. Actually, it wouldn’t snap but you’d probably pull something. Besides, you’d have to learn how to drive it first!
What’s your favourite movie car chase?
That’s difficult because most of them are terrible! But I love the chase with the Mini in The Bourne Identity. It’s great and the guy that’s driving it – and it’s obviously not Matt Damon – does a good job of it because it looks pretty beaten up.
But that battered old Mini could never do that…
Yeah it could, you can do a lot with a handbrake. I’d be able to do that, and I’d love it as well.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve stood next to at a urinal?
That’s a great question. I can’t remember one famous person, although one of my best mates peed on Ronaldo’s shoes. I don’t think he did it on purpose. He came out of the toilet and said, “I’ve just peed on Ronaldo’s shoes.” He was really proud of it. I don’t think Ronaldo was very happy, though.
Monaco’s rammed with celebs. Who’s the most famous person you’ve had in the back of your car?
I’ve been in the car with Danni Minogue. Oh, and David Coulthard’s been in my car. I’ve been in lots of cars with DC…
How do you push his big face in?
I tell you what, he didn’t used to have that big jaw, it’s from driving. Every year it gets bigger…
It is! But it suits him, he looks good. He looks like Action Man. Mine has grown a bit, it’s on the way.
Is it true that Formula One drivers wet themselves if they need to go in the middle of a race?
I’ve never peed in the car but a lot of drivers do. It’s hard enough weeing in public anyway but weeing in your car is a bit strange. And I’d feel a bit sorry for the mechanics. I have had team-mates who’ve done it, though…
So you’ve never done a Paula Radcliffe?
She laid one, didn’t she? No, that’s something that really wouldn’t go down well with the team. And you probably couldn’t squeeze one out because your suit’s so tight. That was impressive though, good girl!
As a kid, when you were being noisy did teachers tell you to button it?
Ha ha, no, “Zip it” I think they used to say. I got called “Genitals” at school, because of Jenson I suppose. I used to tell the girls it was because it was so big. That wasn’t the reason, but…
You’re loaded. What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought?
I bought a boat.
How much was it?
Quite a bit. It was a 70-foot boat with a captain. Abramovich has got one around the corner here in Monaco that’s massive. It probably cost about £200 million. There’s loads of 200-foot boats here that would be about £50 million.
So how much was yours?
Not that much.
More than a million?
Well… it was about £1.2 million. But I’ve sold it, it was just like throwing money into the ocean, it was crazy. It was great for a while though, I’d take it out quite a lot while I was here to get away from everything.
What’s the nearest you’ve come to death?
Monaco in 2003, when I had a big shunt. I was coming out of the tunnel doing about 175mph, hit the brakes and the rear wheels locked and threw me into a wall. I hit the corner hard, blacked out, and was dragged out and taken to hospital. That was pretty severe.
Did your life flash before you?
I hit the wall and it was pretty strange, it was like all the air had been sucked out of my body, I was moulding into the side of the car. Then I woke up and I was as high as a kite because they’d pumped all this stuff into me. And I just started laughing. But that was a bit scary.
How close to dying were you?
If I’d have done that ten years ago when it wasn’t as safe, I’d have been in a coma. I was just lucky that I’m racing now and not then.
Original interview by Dominic Smith in the December 2005 issue of FHM UK magazine