Review: Jenson Button – Life to the Limit

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Despite some typos, Jenson Button's new autobiography is a great look into the life of the driver.

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As a general rule, there are two different kinds of celebrity. You’re either prone to soaking up the attention, keen to share every intricate detail of life under the spotlight with your adoring public, or more inclined to keep your professional and personal lives separate.

Formula 1 has come under a lot of criticism in recent years, not least because drivers are perceived, rightly or wrongly, to lack personality. Some have called out what they see as a lack of character, as drivers toe a dangerous line with the international media in one of the world’s highest-grossing and significant sports.

Jenson Button has always led a private life away from the circuit, even since his school days. The Somerset-born racer enjoyed a career spanning some 309 Grands Prix, 15 of which ended in victory. He brought the 2009 World Championship to plucky independents Brawn GP from the ashes of Honda’s ill-fated team, took the fight to Lewis Hamilton on his own turf at McLaren-Mercedes and rose to prominence with Williams in 2000 aged just 19. So, he probably has a few stories to tell.

And tell them he does. In terms of content, the book deals with each defining moment of his career with a well-crafted mix of humour and charm whilst encapsulating the determination, commitment and sacrifice required to make it to the upper echelons of motorsport. He talks of his surprise phone call from Sir Frank Williams – owner of the aforementioned eponymous team – on Christmas Eve in 1999 whilst drinking with friends at a pub in Frome, and how he initially claimed he ‘wasn’t ready’ for Formula 1, before immediately pressing redial and setting himself down a career path to the history books.

He discusses relationships with teammates, on how he found Lewis Hamilton ‘weird’, admired Rubens Barrichello’s commitment to developing each car and how 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve treated him with contempt – until Button consistent outperformed the Canadian and earned his respect.

Each career-defining moment is captured in both perfect tribute and more depth than ever before as Button adds a first-person perspective to his title triumph, difficult career decisions and the role others have played in shaping him to be the man he is today – not least his father John, who sadly passed away before the start of the 2014 season.

The mindset of a professional sportsperson after their brief but success-laden careers is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating insights into their character, and Button discusses his thought process in detail, weighing up the benefits and draws of giving up a large portion of his jet-setting, luxurious lifestyle for a more relaxed pace of life with girlfriend Brittny in the States.

The production value isn’t the best, with several errors in punctuation throughout, such as the absence of full-stops on a few occasions, but overall this autobiography is an enjoyable and absorbing read for even the most casual of motorsport fans, and a definite stocking-filler this Christmas.

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Damian is a second-year History student, aspiring sports journalist and a lover of films and stand-up comedy.

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