Memories of John

John Button c/o James Moy Photography

John Button
c/o James Moy Photography

It is Saturday 17th October 2009, at about half past ten at night in Sao Paulo. Our Brazilian taxi driver has taken my travelling room-mate and I to the wrong hotel and it’s going to take a while to order another one, so we go to the hotel bar and order a glass of wine.

There, we bump into John Button… sat alone, lost in his thoughts, no doubt contemplating what lay ahead of his son in the morning of a day when he would be crowned world champion. Always Jenson’s most ardent supporter, John barely missed a day of his son’s career. And October 18th would mark the culmination of their incredible journey.

John invited us over that night, as if he was glad to have the company to take his mind away from his thoughts. And there we sat, spoke and laughed long into the night.

Conversation swirled around the place, but eventually moved onto the next season and if it could possibly come up to the levels achieved by Jenson and BrawnGP in 2009. With so much discussion about the future of the team, would the car match up?

“Oh, we’ve already seen next year’s car,” he grinned with his inimitable grin.

“Really? What’s it like?”

“Amazing. It’s going to surprise a lot of people.”

“Oh go on, tell us more.”

“I can’t,” he laughed. “But it’s brilliant. Jenson’s made up.”

We left that night knowing that whatever befell Jenson that Sunday in Brazil, with the championship all but tied up so too was Jenson’s future. A future that included a BrawnGP car in which JB and all his closest confidant’s held immense faith.

Jenson was duly crowned world champion the next day. But it was only in mid November that the true gravity of John’s words the night before that Brazilian Grand Prix hit home. To be precise, it was the day that Jenson was announced as a McLaren driver for 2010.

The wily bugger… he hadn’t meant Brawn at all. That amazing car? The one that was going to surprise so many people? It wasn’t a Brawn. It was the McLaren.

Sitting here now it’s making me smile all over again. He’d been asked a question and he hadn’t lied. He hadn’t handed down a bullshit line. He’d just been John. He’d been completely honest. And in doing so he’d betrayed nobody.

I cannot imagine the paddock without his smile. I cannot imagine walking into McLaren and not seeing him deep in conversation, owing to his absolute openness and willingness to talk to anyone and everyone at any time of the day.

I cannot imagine the pain and grief being felt by the entirety of Team JB and the Button family today. If John leaves a hole in the F1 paddock, one can only imagine the void his passing leaves in his family.

John was a successful racer in his own right, but never was he happier than watching his boy do what his boy does best. He rarely, if ever missed a race.

I’d like to think that won’t change. Just his vantage point.

Godspeed Johnboy.

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10 thoughts on “Memories of John

  1. Lovely Will. I’ve not been this sad in a long time. John proved that you don’t have to have the cupidity, narcissism, and superficiality that are thought to be part of F1. I love what you said. Let’s raise a glass to John.

  2. Austin certainly sends it’s condolences. Was fortunate enough to meet John in Austin 2 years ago and he was a pleasure. He spoke with us on the street for 20 minutes telling stories, making us laugh, and seemed like a genuine joy to be around. I’m sure he’ll be remembered well by many.

  3. Reblogged this on |StartingGrid| and commented:
    My condolences to Jenson and his entire family. Since I’ve been a follower of Formula 1, Jenson’s dad has been such a staple of the paddock. A true racing father, letting his son live his own dream in his own way, while just coming along for the ride. Even though I just follow the sport as a fan, John’s loss still has impact.
    RIP- John.

  4. Seeing Papa Smurf at Orso Bruno last year was like seeing him host the family in his own home – he greeted every guest and got up to say goodbye as they left, all of them throwing their arms around him as if he was their own father. An incredible character in the F1 family, who will never be matched. A great and honourable insight Will, thank you for sharing

  5. A really nice and thoughtfull article that sums up a really nice man.

    This is a tragic day for F1, what a loss to the whole F1 family, but my heart goes out to Jenson and his family at this very sad time.

    If there was ever a year for jenson to be world champion again it is this year.

    I hope jenson remembers that his dad will still be with him at every gp, he is now just watching from a different place.

    R.I.P John Button!!!

  6. Never had the pleasure of meeting the man. I do however remember desiring to have a Father that would stand by me like John seems to have stood by his son. For almost 2 decades I’ve watched him encourage and be there. I’ve modeled my own ideas of fatherhood after this type of Man. What a blessing to Jens. I’m sure that his family know and appreciate Him. I’ll take this sorrow Irish wake style and celebrate the life of a Good Man. Failte!

  7. Well done, Will, as always. It always enjoyed seeing John in the paddock or garage, with Jessica close by, the proud father and girlfriend patiently (not so) waiting and supporting. I send blessings to Jenson and all who loved John. May John rest in peace.

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