Formula One is a complex sport for a casual supporter to understand. There are the technology-filled cars, strategy-filled engineers and the personality-lacking drivers. To an outsider, the sport can be quite daunting, as you only see what the television cameras allow you to see.
Jenson Button’s autobiography is a world away from this. From reading his honest opinions and experiences of the sport, it is hard to believe he was once part of the circus, and in 2009, the ringmaster. There is no jargon and no boring bits; Button strips everything down to its simplest form.
The reason for this is, and it is acknowledged on the inside cover, Life to the Limit isn’t a book about racing. There are recollections of races, and it is in the backdrop of every chapter, but it is a book about a boy from Frome in the UK who lived out his ambition to be Formula One Champion.
Button is very open in his book about every aspect of his life. There are the early struggles of making it in karting, the doubts about being able to progress, as well as the run-ins with team mates and the atmosphere behind the scenes of a race weekend. Whether you are an F1 veteran or a newcomer, there will be something you can learn about the sport and the people who make it what it is.
There was no hiding that Jenson’s father John was a massive influence and guiding star during his career. From the early days of winning his first karting race until his death in 2014, Jenson Button’s dad was a cornerstone of Team Button and loved by all in the paddock. Jenson includes some great stories about the times they had together, like any father and son duo they had their good days and bad days but nevertheless they were a formidable pairing and helped each other reach the heights of fame.
Jenson also doesn’t hold back when giving character references of his team mates in Formula One, and talks about the chemistry – or lack of- that he had with them. From Ralf Schumacher being a diva, falling out with Jacques Villeneuve, being the villain against Rubens Barrichello and pitting himself against Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren team.
Over his sixteen year career in the pinnacle of motor racing, Button raced for many teams and got to know the team principals who call the shots. He talks about thinking he got a prank call from someone pretending to be Frank Williams, Flavio Briatore calling him a lazy playboy, and how Ross Brawn helped him finally helped him to a World Championship. And although he was only a sponsor during the Championship winning year, he tells about wanting to punch Richard Branson in the face.
Being an autobiography there is no shock twist at the end, but what you do get after finishing it, is a greater understanding and respect for both Jenson Button and the Formula One community as a whole. Obviously it is a completely subjective review of his career, but Button tells the story in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn in. The ease of reading makes it more like a conversation between two mates, you hang on every word and chapter waiting for what will come next.
Whether you were a fan of Button or not during his career, whether you had a passing interest in the sport or followed it religiously, this book is an interesting read. It helps you understand that when the chequered flag waves and the helmet comes off that there is a regular person behind it all who is just living their dream.
Life to the Limit: My Autobiography by Jenson Button is on sale now.