Meanwhile, he’s itching to get back into something quick himself. “I’m going mad right now, not driving,” he says. “I left F1 in 2016, which is crazy – already four years ago. I did two races in 2017, one at Monaco in F1 [as a substitute at McLaren for Fernando Alonso, who was racing in the Indianapolis 500] and one at Suzuka, the 1000km in Super GT. And the past two years I raced in Super GT, which I loved [see below].
“It feels like 10 years since I’ve driven anything, and it’s just eight months. But it’s difficult to find something I’d enjoy and can really sink my teeth into. Le Mans is going through a strange period. I love the idea of the new LMDh regulations, but that won’t be until 2022, and which manufacturers are going to be involved? We just don’t know. I’ve been doing loads of karting, which is the only thing I can do, and it’s kept my reactions sharp to keep up with the 17-year-olds. I want to race, it’s just about which direction to go.
“There were a couple of opportunities to test in Indycar,” he reveals, “but they fell through because of the pandemic. I’d be really interested to race on street circuits in Indycar, but ovals don’t float my boat. There’s also GT3 racing, although I’ve never driven one, while Le Mans is still there.” Button made a short-notice debut at the 24 Hours in 2018, driving a BR1 LMP1 for SMP Racing, and was surprised by how much he enjoyed it. “At Le Mans, your age doesn’t matter if you’re still hungry,” he says. “I’m still super-fit and I’m hungry.”
Button was always a pleasure to deal with, from his early days out of karts until the end of his F1 career in an uncompetitive McLaren-Honda. But his relaxed, sunny disposition always belied the fierce competitive streak that drove him. “You have to be very single-minded in F1 – very selfish as well, and I don’t mind saying that now,” he says. “I was a very selfish person. Everything had to be about me, because I had to get the best out of myself. I had a physio, a manager and a PR who all worked for me to make my job easier so I could do my best on track. Now the world is a very different place, because I have a child.
“You can’t be the person you are in F1 when you have children – at least I couldn’t be – because suddenly you’re not the most important person. I’m loving the experience, even if it was a shock to the system initially. It’s amazing seeing him grow. Having a family and a home, I’ve never had it before, because in F1 I was always on the road. You see things differently. The first couple of years out of F1, I didn’t have any direction to go with my life and work, but there have been some really good opportunities in the past six months, which is great. I’m really looking forward to the future.”