When you sit in front of a Formula One World Champion, you probably expect the interview is gonna be fast, real fast. Wrong! Jenson Button stayed calm and answered all our questions wisely as a F1 driver, a triathlete and a gentleman.
You are well known as a Formula One driver, but can you tell us more about Jenson Button the triathlete?
Ok, I started doing Mini- triathlons about 10 years ago, but it was more part of training I would had, for instance to one of the islands around here. I went to Lanzarote to do trainings, but it was very basic – training a couple of hours a day, eat, and that was about it. I did not really get into it until 2009/2010. In the last 2 years we started to take it a bit more serious, I came together with close friends to train together and travel to different races around the world. I have done three half-distances now. The first one was on the Philippines that one was just great! Then there was the one Oceanside and finally Berlin last year. The Challenge here is number four. It has been going fairly good so far. I was able to finish in the top five in the past three triathlons, on the Phillipines I even got on the podium with a third place. And that is my aim here as well, to get in the top positions in my age category.
You finished in 4 hours and 19 minutes last year. What is your goal in the race here?
Oh probably a bit slower! I think the bike is tough and it depends in which direction the wind is blowing. The swim I hope to finish in about 28, 29 minutes. And the run, well, I normally do a 29 (minutes) on a flat course, but here it is tough! I think the important thing is not to worry so much about the time, but to look for the positioning and that is what I am aiming for.
Jenson, you are doing a lot of charity work…. Can you tell us, your fans, how can we collaborate with you?
Every year I do a triathlon in the UK, it is a very short distance triathlon, you could call it a beginner distance. We race as much money for the Jenson Button trust, which is my trust. During the season we work out which charity we should work with and this year it is cancer research. The last two years it was “healthy heroes” which is a charity for injured soldiers. We think it will be 500 participants in the race and every participant is, obviously, trying to raise money for the charity. Apart from that, I do different events around the world at Grand Prix to raise money for the charity as well. I think we can increase our charity work within the triathlon scene around Europe, maybe to the Middle East. So far it has been going really well, the people have been fantastic. They were not just entering the triathlon, but raising as much money for the charity as possible. It is not me, but the help of all the participants that results in the success of the charity.
Photo: Miguel Ángel Jaén http://www.majphotography.com
What do you think are the similarities of triathlon and Formula One?
Aerodynamic – it is amazing the amount of things that you can buy, it is not a cheap sport, all the aero you can get for the bike, you can never be sure if the things actually have the effect. We just read that a product is supposed to be good and it looks good, so we buy it and put it on the bike. So, there are a lot of similarities in terms of aero in the car and the aero on the bike. Another aspect is the mental side of the sport that really play a big part, especially when you do a longer distance in triathlon. Here on Fuerteventura and the windy course, you always have to remember that everyone has got the same conditions and you have to try to be stronger than the rest of them.
Let’s talk a little bit about the Challenge Fuerteventura. How do you feel about the race?
It will be a Challenge, yes it is the perfect name for the triathlon. I am looking forward to it. In February I had an entire month off due to an injury, so this is good training for the season. The swim looks good, the water is clean – there used to be so many jellyfish! And the bike course is really good with nice scenery. It will be very tough with the wind. And then the run were it is just about bringing it home for me! The best thing for me is that the finish line is right next to a bar. Hopefully I will collect a little thing around my neck, so I can just go straight to get a well deserved beer 🙂
Why do you always race with the number 22?
The 22 is my race number in Formula One, so I wanted it here as well. And it is the number had when I won the championship back in 2009, so it means a lot to me.
Your engineers are talking constantly to you while you are driving with 250 km/h. How can you stay concentrated?
My engineers make sense that is the thing!
Well, it is a part of racing, especially the way it is now with the power unit. It is not just a normal combustion engine; it is a turbo engine with 160 HP in your back, there is so much that we have to change in the electronics throughout the race, therefore we are nonstop adjusting it. The engineer needs to be on the radio, so I can concentrate on the racing.
About the island: Did you have time to walk around Fuerteventura?
We have not walked around the island, just from the villa to the beach, the restaurant and the bike shop. Yesterday we drove the bike course and stopped off in a little village, Pájara, and went to a restaurant there which was amazing. A peaceful little restaurant, there was no one around, just us and I had goat for the first time which is a new experience for me. We also cycled around yesterday and saw a lot of goats. I have never seen this many goats in my life!
So Formula One: You are in the 8th position right now. Louis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are really strong right now and it looks like they might win this season. What do you expect for your next races?
The position does not matter. When you have one the world championship once you do not care about where you are unless you are winning. It is about developing the car at the moment. Mercedes has a massive advantage on everyone. For us, we had a good race in the beginning of the year where I have been on the podium and since then we have had some difficult races, so we have to develop. You cannot put the finger on one of us in motor sports, it is a team work.
Jenson, lets talk about October 18th, 2009 in Brasil, do you remember that day?
A very special day, I remembered October 17 was one of the worst days on my life. The qualifying was wet, it went really bad and ended with a 14th place. And I had to finish 5th that day to win the world championship. I remember saying to my dad: “Tomorrow we will win the world championship; we will fight through and at least get 5th”. I woke up the next morning and felt really positive. Then we raced and when I finally crossed the finish line as the 5th I got the radio message from the team: “You just won the world championship” and proceeded to sing “we are the champions”. It was a really emotional day, considering that one year ago we did not even have a team.
What do you usually do when you are on holiday?
This, this is what I do when I am on holidays. Not interviews :-), I do triathlons. I have a week off, so I am here training and racing with my crazy friends. I struggle just to be at the beach, I can do it for 20 minutes and then I need to jump into the ocean or jump on the bike. This is a release for my from the circus I live in.
You have almost been here for a week. What can you tell us about Playitas?
Obviously I am here now that everyone is preparing for the race. It is a good little complex and I think the important thing is that everyone here is really friendly; there is a good atmosphere because there are so many happy people. Everyone is enjoying the sun and the sea while doing the sport that we love.
The last thing you do before you sit inside your McLaren: Have a gel.
Your favorite Formula One race: 2011 in Japan.
How many miles do you fly every year: No idea, I fly three times a week.
What is your favorite triathlon distance: This here, the half-distance.
Swim, bike or run: Bike.
How many bikes do you have: That’s a very good question. Probably around 12.
Jenson, thank you very much and good luck for the race!
Muchas gracias! 🙂