More than 500 guests attended JD Classics’ HQ to hear exclusive insight from 2009 Formula One World Champion, Jenson Button MBE
The crowds had the chance to look around JD Classics’ seven showrooms and speak with some of the company’s 75 craftsmen
Jenson Button, who drove for McLaren, Brawn GP and Honda among others, revealed incredible behind-the-scenes stories from his F1 days
More dates for JD Classics’ breakfast mornings will be announced in the New Year
JD Classics welcomed more than 500 guests to another of its much-lauded breakfast mornings over the weekend, headlined by 2009 Formula One World Champion, Jenson Button.
JD Classics opened up its 155,000 sq/ft site in Maldon Essex to its most loyal customers, partners and ballot winners, allowing them a look at its seven showrooms full of some of the most legendary classic and performance cars ever built. Some of the 75-strong JD Classics team were also on-hand to talk visitors through the restoration workshop, race shop, body shop and engine shop where JD Classics’ world-class work takes place.
But the highlight of the day was a talk from 2009 Formula One World Champion Jenson Button, who starred alongside the Brawn GP car that he drove to victory in 2009. Button spoke candidly about his time in Formula One, his elation at being crowned World Champion and a passion for classic cars.
Button told the assembled crowds, and compere Simon Taylor, how his father had bought him a go-kart for Christmas, and his passion for motorsport began there. “It was actually just something for us to do on the weekends… then somebody said we should enter into a race – which was never the plan – but I did, and I won my first race.”
After ten seasons of karting, Button moved to Formula Ford in 1998 and won the championship before making his way up to Formula 3. And at the end of that season, Button told how he was invited to his first Formula One test by his idol, Alain Prost. “The thing about Formula One mechanics is they give nothing away. I felt good with the car, came back in and I’m looking round and there’s no reaction from anyone. Anyway, I went back out and ended up going quicker than [Jean] Alesi had the previous day so then I sort of knew that I’d done OK…”
Button was to take lessons learned from his idol Prost into his Formula One days, replicating his consistent and calculated driving style. “He always said to me that he never wanted to damage the car, and that’s so similar to me.”
Impressed by his test with Prost, Williams signed Button up for his first competitive Formula One drive in 2000, where he finished 8th in his first season, before moving to a difficult season with Benetton and then BAR where Jenson partnered with Jacques Villeneuve.
In 2006, Jenson moved to Honda where he would get his first win in Formula One at the Hungarian GP after 113 races. “I had 12 laps to go and I was 35 seconds ahead. A lot of drivers say they want the race to finish immediately, they’re worried about things going wrong. But I savoured every moment.”
Without a doubt Button’s most memorable season was 2009, when he would become World Champion with Brawn GP against all odds, following the collapse of Honda before it became Brawn GP. “It was so late that we got the call that it was back on… we were frantically running around figuring out where we get an engine from. We had Mercedes engines in the end, which didn’t fit – there’s actually a spacer in the car between the tub and the engine to make it fit because it was designed for a Honda engine.”
Having won the world championship, Button looked for a new challenge, moving to partner with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. “He [Hamilton] is probably the most naturally gifted individual that’s ever driven a racing car. I did enjoy going up against him, and that was the whole reason for moving to McLaren [from Brawn GP].
Button eventually retired from Formula One in 2016, but did return to sit in for Fernando Alonso at the 2017 Monaco GP. “I drove the simulator for two days but it just doesn’t work around Monaco. I rolled into the harbour twice! I didn’t know you could roll in a simulator. Anyway, I thought I have no pressure on me so I went up the pitlane and started driving up the hill and it just felt so natural.”
Despite retiring from Formula One, Button said he hasn’t retired from motorsport altogether. “I will be driving something next year. I haven’t got a contract to do anything yet but I love Super GT. It’s basically a DTM car, a carbon tub with a 2.0-litre turbo engine, 650hp and huge amounts of downforce. I had a little taster of that in August and absolutely loved it – the hunger is back for racing.”
Button also spoke about his passion for classic cars, saying: “I’ve really really got into my classic cars, and coming here [to JD Classics] is dangerous! I’ve already got a Ferrari F40 here – my dream car – and a Porsche 964 Turbo X88 Pack.”
Photo Credit: Michael Bailie