When I attended the Johnnie Walker Step into the Circuit event at Conrad Centennial Hotel last Wednesday evening for the Jenson Button appearance, Button shared his life story as well as his aim for the weekend. He was hoping for a podium finish and he did it! Second place and with major late-race pressure on race winner Sebastian Vettel… it was Button who prevented Vettel from wrapping up the championship title in Singapore.
This was what he said at the event:
MCLAREN’s Jenson Button is hopeful of a podium finish at the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday. In the last two races in Belgium and Italy, the Briton finished third and second respectively despite not starting from the front row.
Yesterday, the 2009 world champion expressed his optimism while at a Johnnie Walker event at the Conrad Centennial Hotel last Thursday.
Said the Briton: “I finished third and second at the last two races, despite not starting from the front row. So this weekend if we can qualify well and get a good start, then there’s a good chance of winning.”
Button, 31, finished fourth in the Singapore GP last year and fifth the year before. Despite the challenges of the Marina Bay circuit, he believes he is prepared. He said: “The circuit is very bumpy. It’s a street circuit after all, so it’s sort of understandable. Even with the floodlights, some places are dark and most of the circuit is bright, so it’s hard to get consistent lighting around the circuit.
“It’s very difficult for the eyes to get used to the changing lighting. That’s tricky – plus it’s a two-hour race, the longest race we do. It’s a really really tough circuit. You have to be mentally focused and have the fitness. This is basically the race to train for.”
Acknowledging that his championship hopes are pretty much over, Button is just focused on achieving race wins for the rest of the season. “The championship is pretty much gone for everyone apart from Sebastian (Vettel), so we are just going for race wins. To stop him, we need all of us to finish in front of him at every race from now. Sebastian can’t score any more points this year; if he does, he pretty much wins the title.
“It’s very difficult at the moment, but we just go into every race as it comes, not worry about the points in the championship and just focus on getting the race win. We’re going to be aggressive and come away from the race with a win.”
If he were to win on Sunday, don’t expect a night-long celebration party to follow. At the most, it would be dinner and a few drinks with his parents and model girlfriend Jessica Michibata. He said: “Celebrating after a successful race means spending time with close friends that come to the race, my girlfriend, my old man, my mum. We go out for dinner and then have a few drinks. I don’t normally go to F1 parties after races; it’s not something I normally choose to go to.
“I just want to get away from F1 when I’ve finished driving. It’s always a very full-on weekend and it’s very busy, so you want to get away from it as soon as possible.”
Does he see himself in racing when he is past his 30s, like Michael Schumacher?
His reply: “I can’t see myself racing whenI’m 42 like (Michael) Schumacher, but that’s also 11 years from now.”
Before he was done, Button also gave some advice for aspiring drivers hoping to get into F1. He said: “First, I would say good luck. Try to get your father or mother to support you because it’s a very competitive sport. To succeed in F1, you need the support and the sponsors to survive. It’s very difficult and it’s not just about your fitness or the way you drive. It’s about the way you carry yourself on the circuit, how you work with sponsors, and there are many things to the sport that people don’t realise.”
Watch a video of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton sharing their thoughts on the Singapore night race:
*This was first published in The New Paper.