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MF interviews F1 star Jenson Button

MF meets former F1 world champ Jenson Button | Men's Fitness UK
(Image credit: Unknown)

What makes a champion?
In F1 it's about never giving up. You will have difficult times but it's in those difficult times that you really find yourself. You've got to be strong in those moments. I had a race last year in Canada where I had to drive through torrential rain. I ended up crashing into my team-mate, got a drive-through penalty, a puncture and I broke my front wing. It was a disaster for 90% of the race but I stayed positive and for the last ten laps of the race I chased down the leaders, from last place. I came through and I won the race on the last lap, and it was because I had stayed positive. Also, in F1 you're always learning. I've been in it for 12 years but I feel like I'm learning more now than when I was 20. 

How do you prepare for a race?
F1 is different from a lot of sports. Take football – before the game you have a lot of time with the other players in the locker room. It's very different to what we have. We're in front of the cameras before we go out. We're with the sponsors of the team. It’s a busy time. You have to train yourself to prepare for the race mentally. F1 is such a glamorous sport but you have to take yourself away from that side of it, focus on what you're doing and run through the race in your head. I close my eyes and visualise myself driving around the circuit. In F1 it's all or nothing: you drive out to the circuit and immediately you're racing – you don't have a warm-up – so preparation is key to a good race.

When does preparation start?
Qualifying. You're geared up for two days and that's one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the weekend. You really need to push everything to the limit and that requires huge focus. The race is something different. You have to be prepared but once you get in to it you can get into a rhythm.

What are your pre-race rituals?
The morning of the race I'll always go for a run or a swim just to get the blood pumping through the body and then I always run through the same programme. I always eat the same thing at the same time of day. I spend time with the engineers, I have a massage before the race. That may sound nice but it's quite painful because my physio is warming my muscles up and getting me mentally and physical greasy for the race. It's quite an aggressive massage. 

Do you have any superstitions before or during the race?
You can get into an F1 car from either side but I always get in the same side. And the last thing I always do before we drive away is check my helmet, even if I know I've done it up already. 

Does it help to have people around you or is it best to be alone and focus?
You need a good group of people around you. When you win a race, to embrace your old boy or your mum or your girlfriend, it means so much. My girlfriend is at a lot of the races and my old boy is at every race – he's like part of the F1 furniture. And when you have a bad day you have someone there who can pick you up. 

How physically demanding is racing?
We lose about 3kg of fluid during a race because you sweat so much in the car. Sitting in a car turning a steering wheel doesn't sound that physical but the G-force that we pull and the speed we carry going through a high-speed corner makes it tough on the body. And there's a lot of vibrations, so you build up lactic acid like you would on a bike. So we take in a lot of fluid in the morning. The team doctor gives us this special salty drink that works really well and keeps me hydrated throughout the race. Immediately after the race you have to eat and drink to put the weight back on or you'll suffer for a couple of days. 

How do you relax after a race?
I normally have a little massage. I do like my massages. I'm always most tired the day after – that's when it really hits you. After the race you're on such a high and adrenaline is still pumping. I remember in 2009 when I won the world championship in Brazil. I got out the car feeling ecstatic and I was jumping all over the mechanics. Later that night I was supposed to go partying with them to celebrate. I had one drink and I had to go home because I was just shattered. I went home and sat in my hotel room on my own and just reflected on the whole weekend and what I had achieved. So you have the peak, the excitement and the adrenaline and then you have a massive anticlimax afterwards. 

Any triathlons planned?
I hurt my knee last year so I haven't been able to run much. But it's something that I've got into and I'm just hooked.

What are you working on?
Everything still. My swimming technique is good but I've got a sinus issue so I can't swim with in a pool with chlorine. I have to swim in the sea but that's not easy when you're always travelling. 

Jenson Button is the new face of Boss Bottled Sport. (opens in new tab)

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Jon Lipsey worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Jon was deputy editor and editor from 2007 to 2013. He returned as editor-in-chief from 2016 to 2019. He also co-founded IronLife Media (opens in new tab) and the New Body Plan (opens in new tab)