Advertisement: Esso and McLaren-Honda are celebrating their long-term partnership this year. In order to bring the “racing” experience closer to fans, a virtual happening was created. And I had a chance to talk to Jenson Button in Woking.
Could he imagine a career in Formula E? Certainly not. The answer from 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button comes spontaneously and convinces. No, motorsport without gasoline and sound is out of the question for him. Still, one has to ask the question, what is Jenson Button doing in the future? 2017, he will vacate his place as F1 pilot in the McLaren Honda for the first time. For a petrolhead like Jenson Button a real change.
Jenson Button in the kart - get in and ride
360 ° racing experience with Esso
The Jenson is a racer, you realize in every sentence we change. He needs the challenge, the competition. And even though it was difficult for McLaren-Honda last year when he and his team-mate Fernando Alonso rarely drive where they belong. At the top. You can see the progress the team is making. Constantly being developed, researched and stagnation is a foreign word. That this includes the development of fuel. Even for fans rather unknown. But Bruce Crawley, motorsport technology manager at Esso, explains the details. A tenth of a second faster? Feasible if fuel and engine are ideally matched.
The McLaren Technical Center was available for the meeting with Jenson Button. This ultramodern F1 factory in Woking. Think tank and craft workshop. History and future, united in a spacey complex. Inside, it almost looks a bit like the headquarters of a James Bond villain. One can feel the historical successes of Bruce McLaren. You walk between the eyewitnesses of McLaren's long track record in Formula 1. The original race cars of Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Senna. Strung in the lobby. Behind it in glass-framed factory buildings that look like they're being used by dentists after office hours, so clinically clean, organized and tidied up, the current F1 vehicles and technicians. And duty is not known in the formula 1 anyway.
Esso has invited to experience a virtual race. While Jenson Button talks to me about motorsport, the past and the future, the current Formula 1 racers are being dismantled by him and Alonso. No screw stays in place and the schedule until the vehicles have to be shipped to Singapore, the next race, is tight.
Jenson Button talks about his passion. What sharpens his senses? What is charging him? What is the fuel for his passion made of? What is so simple in the English from Esso in the slogan "Fuel your senses”Is summarized, in German it is incredibly difficult to paraphrase. But Jenson has a simple answer: It is the moment when he sits in the car, closes the visor, cranks up the engine and accelerates with a good 2G from the pit lane onto the race track. Then he forgets everything else. Then there is only him, him and the machine. It's his sense of freedom. He controls the machine. Nobody else. He and his Formula 1 racer. The pure power.
What today's Formula 1 drivers are less likely to do, Jenson did it himself. I ask about his technical talent. He owns around 15 of his own vehicles, could he do an oil change there himself? His answer is convincing! For sure. And not only that. He used to help his father in the workshop. I did a gear change myself at the age of 16. The understanding for the technology is there. Know what is going on when you drive the racing car. Jenson's career, like that of many F1 champs, also starts in karting. But besides the information that has to be processed today. Jenson also developed a feeling for technology early on from computer evaluations and virtual data. Jenson Button is one of the kind of racing drivers who are very authentic and approachable. If you ask him about the “dream teammate”, he names pilots like Alain Prost or Gerhard Berger.
2017 will hand Jenson Button his cockpit to Stoffel Vandoorne. He himself will devote himself a few times to his hobby triathlon. Probably also when the 2017 season starts in March. But Jenson sounds convincing: Motorsport is his life. Will we see him at Le Mans? He avoids the question and continues: Super GT in Japan would be great fun, maybe he does that. And Rallye Cross, Jenson is totally on Rallye Cross.
And - Here we come full circle - Kart racing. Jenson Button positively raves about his karting days. There are no radio instructions, no telemetry. It's just the driver, the kart and his opponents. A tough motorsport, but also a very honest motorsport.
What it looks like when you put 5 Formula 1 pilots in karts. Three of them F1 World Champions. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Mika Hakkinnen and David Coulthard and then together with the F1-Youngster Vandoorne on the kart track, you can look at a video produced by Esso. The special is not even the three world champions, the 5 F1 pilots, but the opportunity to be there directly. There is the chance to see the kart race from five perspectives. And each in a 360 ° -Rumumblick!