|Life To The Limit: My Autobiography, by Jenson Button|
|© 2017, ISBN 9781911600343 (Hardcover)|
“I’m going to let you in on a secret. Or actually, many secrets. This is my life, not the stuff you’ve seen, but the things you haven’t.”
So the jacket of Jenson Button’s autobiography promises. But does it deliver?
In short, no.
Seventeen seasons in Formula 1, on top of a rapid rise through the junior ranks to get there, should leave ample room for plenty of anecdotes and never-before-told stories in the 2009 World Champion’s memoir.
The youngster from Frome was plucked from the British Formula 3 Championship into a plum F1 seat with Williams in 2000 as a baby-faced 20-year-old. Sir frank’s faith in him was justified in his rookie season, but after being dropped and moving to Benetton (which then became Renault), he started to garner the wrong kind of media attention as a well-heeled playboy.
Burned repeatedly by the tabloids, Button did his best to avoid the media spotlight thereafter and let his driving do the talking. Peaks and valleys with BAR (which then became Honda) finally culminated in him winning the 2009 World Championship title, but only after an eleventh-hour rescue of the Honda team after it was shut down.
He made the surprise move to McLaren as the reigning World Champion, and remained with the Woking team until he opted to retire at the end of 2016.
A year on from hanging up his helmet full-time has allowed Button the opportunity to reflect and tell his story to his fans, but it’s a read that might leave the majority of them feeling short-changed.
Of course a degree of evasiveness is to be expected. Autobiographies tend to labour the success and rush through or even gloss over the failures, but the degree of self-censorship on display here is disappointing to say the least. As one example, he does his best to avoid explaining why he was twice dragged into contract disputes between Williams and BAR in the mid-2000s, claiming the readers would “switch off”.
What is put to paper are a collection of anecdotes which are candidly and revealingly told. By far the most rewarding sections are when he writes about his childhood and the close bond he forged with his late father John. His dad’s sudden and tragic passing is emotionally re-lived in its closing chapters.
The project certainly feels like it lost the enthusiasm of its author as the chapters wear on. The final years of his F1 career, particularly post-Brawn GP, are given a very rushed treatment.
There’s enough tidbits in this to hold your interest, but it’s pretty light reading; I managed to knock it over on a three-hour flight from Japan to China. The bigger impression of Life To The Limit is with what’s actually missing from its pages.
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