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Me and My Car - Jenson Button

Jenson Button is a former Formula 1 world champion and current Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver. He is supporting the Mobil 1 Fuel Save initiative, using his racing experience to promote the real-world efficiency benefits of high-quality oils.

What do you drive?

I have a McLaren MP4-12C at home. I also have a C-Class Mercedes for day-to-day driving. I can’t drive the McLaren every day; I need to put bags in my car sometimes and pushbikes in the back, and that doesn’t work well with the McLaren. It’s not your standard C-Class; it’s an AMG. It’s a proper motor and that, for me, is a great everyday car. The McLaren is a car for going out to dinner with the Mrs (Jessica Michibata) because it’s always nice to drive something a little flashy.

What was your first car?

It was a Vauxhall Cavalier. Yes. Two-litre, with injection, and I had it lowered and some 17-inch alloys put on it. I’d have loved to have had a Calibra, but it was more money and I couldn’t afford it at the time. I actually wanted a Toyota Supra. That was the car for me but I never actually bought one.

What were your best and worst cars?

That’s a tricky one. I’ve had some old cars I’ve really enjoyed, like a 1973 Porsche (911) 2.7 RS, but that didn’t like oil. It seemed to spit it out in the garage, whereas the first car I bought when I got into Formula 1 was a Ferrari 355. It was registered in 1998, I bought it in 2000, it’s done under 10,000 miles and I’ve just taken delivery again in Monaco because it’s been in storage. It’s like new. That’s memories more than anything else, and for me the cars I have today are the ones I’d choose to have. The C63 is a great everyday car and the McLaren is fabulous. I’ve had cars like Bugattis, which are fun to have for a little while but really expensive; they cost a fortune – not just buying but owning them. The McLaren’s not a cheap car, but it’s very different in that respect.

What’s your dream car?

The dream car was the Bugatti, and I owned one for a few months; it was fun while it lasted. I remember a couple of times it broke down, which was quite embarrassing in a traffic jam in the middle of London. So I sold it and the next car I’m really excited about is the McLaren P1. It’s beautiful and it’s got more downforce than a GT3 race car. I’m hoping they’re not going to make too many of them so I’ll hopefully buy one myself. You don’t get discounts from Ron (Dennis, executive chairman at McLaren), though.

Do you think you’re a good driver?

Yes. Most of the time I’m in the back seat, so I’m a really good driver (laughs). I haven’t driven a car in London for months. If I am here, I normally ride a bike, but yes I’m a good driver. I don’t drive fast. I’m one of the lucky ones who get to drive a Formula 1 car with 750 horsepower, so for me driving on the road is getting from A to B, unless I’ve got a couple of days off and I’m with my Mrs for example, and we’ll drive up into the mountains behind Monaco. The ski resorts are great in the summer and it’s lovely getting up there.

What do you always keep in your glove box?

The McLaren hasn’t got one! But normally a pair of sunglasses. I lose so many pairs of sunglasses and then I’ll get into a car and open the glove box and it’s: “Oh, there they are…”

What drives you mad behind the wheel?

People who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them. When you’re driving in America, it’s slow and people don’t change lanes, which is fair enough; it’s just the way it is. In the UK, for example, we have three lanes on the motorway most of the time and normally the lane on the right goes faster than the one on the left, except most of the time it doesn’t. So that’s one thing; it’s people being aware of their surroundings in terms of getting out of the way but also in terms of safety. That’s one thing we all need to improve on – being aware of your fellow drivers on the road.

What’s the best music to drive to?

Definitely not anything too crazy. No Rage Against the Machine; that’s definitely not a good one for driving. Bob Marley’s probably quite good for driving – that sort of chilled music; you don’t want anything too crazy because it’s amazing how much music changes your mood.

Have you ever had a crash?

Not one. For some reason I had a yellow Fiat when I was 18 and racing in Formula Ford. It was bright yellow; it was a Fiat Coupé, and people reversed into it twice – quite an obvious car but people reversed onto it twice. That’s the only accident I’ve ever had and I wasn’t actually in it at the time.

Who’d be your perfect passenger?

Got to be my girlfriend. But I tell you what, Bob Marley would be quite fun to have in your car. You wouldn’t need a radio. You might not be able to see much with his dreads though, to be fair.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in a car?

I did a thing for another sponsor earlier this year – and I was surprised they let me do it. Basically, we went to this (empty) car park and did doughnuts. For four hours. It was a new C-Class AMG, I put it into Sport Plus mode, turned the traction control off and basically just did doughnuts all afternoon. Mika Häkkinen was there as well, and it was all do to with safer driving. I wrote JB on the asphalt. To be fair, I must say I was pretty good at it. It was a lot of fun.

Who cleans your car and how often?

I don’t know his name. He charges me €60 though; I know that. How often? I’m not there that often, that’s the problem. The cars have no covers on them but the car park is pretty good. I’m normally quite bad at getting my cars cleaned, but when I do it’s three hours and €60. If you go for the special polish, it’s €200. It’s quite nice, because you drive into the car park and it’s just full of beautiful cars, so you spend half an hour wandering around looking at them all after they’ve been cleaned. So I don’t clean them as much as I should, but I definitely do keep the tyre pressures right…

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