As the television audience for Formula 1 continues to rise, what is apparent is the fact that the TV show is as appealing to many millions of fans as the race itself…sometimes even more so. It is for this reason that corporations who spend millions to acquire the rights for live racing will then spend a considerable amount to hire the most engaging personalities. This season is no exception because Sky Sports F1 have lured Jenson Button to the team for the whole season and he most certainly is an 'engaging personality'.
Since retiring from Formula 1, Jenson Button had been a regular filming segments and voicing his opinion as a pundit for both Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1. Since the latter has now become the sole live broadcaster in the UK for the 2019 F1 season, it is no surprise to see Jenson nail his colours to the mast in the same way Martin Brundle did when he left an extremely popular BBC commentary team.
When speaking of the 2019 season, Button expressed his excitement: “There are so many changes in the sport at the moment and that's exactly what the sport needs…I think we will have three teams battling at the front and, if we do, there will be some fantastic fights." These comments were in response to the new aerodynamic regulations and the hope of long overdue wheel to wheel racing.
So, why make such a big announcement about the acquisition of an ‘ex-F1 racer’ for a ‘TV channel’?
When recalling Button’s F1 career, fans will always look to: his maiden Formula 1 Grand Prix victory for Team BAR in Hungary 2006; his first pole position at Imola in 2007 with BAR-Honda; winning THAT infamous 2011 Canadian Grand Prix and of course being the victor of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship with Brawn GP. With all this success though, there is still the despair of never achieving a podium at Silverstone in all his years of racing.
Many articles are written of the man who back in his early days was labelled the playboy of Formula 1 – so it should hardly be a surprise that he is now engaged to a former Playboy playmate.
Jenson Button is one of those people who transcends the sport. He is known as so much more than just a racer and this fact is supported by the establishment of The Jenson Button Trust which was set up in March 2010 and as the website tells us ‘was a way to enable Jenson to donate to a number of charitable causes and campaigns that were close to his heart, with the overall aim of giving as much help to as many as possible.’ It is certainly easy to see how such a person can draw a crowd – whether in person or in the form of viewing figures.
Since leaving Formula 1, Jenson Button continued his motor racing success when he clinched the Super GT championship title for Team Kunimitsu in 2018 alongside Naoki Yamamoto, and has also made four FIA World Endurance Championship appearances – including Le Mans – with the SMP Racing LMP1 team.
It is very appropriate for Jenson’s recent success to be in Japan because this a country which holds a special place in his heart due to his relationship with his previous wife Jessica Michibata and the way he adopted so many of the country’s values, attitudes and customs. None more so than naming his triathlon team ‘Ichiban’ which means ‘number 1' in Japanese, both literally and metaphorically.
The term ichiban would be used to describe something that is the best of something or on top – quite fitting for Jenson Button. Now we wait to see if Button can become the best at being a pundit - I wouldn't bet against it.