Pushing the right Button to longevity

As he approaches the twilight of his career, former Formula One world champion Jenson Button still remembers the time a fan voiced online disapproval of his longevity in the sport.

With a laugh, Button said: "Obviously he's not my fan. He said that I should move aside and let the young kids race.

"But if F1 teams think I'm doing a good enough job, then why should I step aside?

"This is my job, this is my living."

The Briton has certainly been an ever-present figure in the F1 paddock for the past 17 years. Fans saw him progress from a promising rookie to a dashing champion to an elder statesman of the sport.

And the 36-year-old could call time on his career soon. He will not be racing for McLaren next season, instead signing a two-year contract to be the team's ambassador, with an option to return to racing in 2018.

Yesterday, he turned on his charm at the Conrad Centennial Singapore, where premium sparkling wine brand Chandon, partner of McLaren, unveiled a unique cocktail called "The Jenson".

But beneath his boyish good looks is his unquenchable thirst to know everything there is to know about F1.

"Putting the car on edge around a circuit and then racing another guy also on edge, it's crazy and so much fun. It's what I dreamt of as a kid," the 2009 world champion said.

"I have thought a lot about giving up. Whenever I have a bad race, it just kept stressing me out and I never enjoyed that feeling.

"The last two years have been tough, in terms of our (team) performance. But we have made a lot of progress in the last 18 months and being part of that process is exciting. I'm enjoying myself a lot."

An avowed fitness fanatic who regularly does triathlons and mountain biking, Button believes his regimen is a big reason for his long F1 career.

"If I hadn't trained over the last 17 years, I wouldn't feel or look like I do now," he said.

"I'm lucky that I enjoy training because a lot of drivers hate it. For me, I do it because I know it's making a better me in the long run."

So who among the young drivers will follow his footsteps and enjoy an equally lengthy career?

"I'd be surprised if we see many drivers that reach 17 seasons in F1. But there are a couple definitely who could last," Button said. "Max (Verstappen) will have a long career. He's talented, he's learnt very quickly. I think Lewis (Hamilton) will race for that long too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Pushing the right Button to longevity'. Print Edition | Subscribe