Jenson Button - My Championship YearLaurence Edmondson December 9, 2009
You'd be forgiven for thinking it's now obligatory for a British sportsman to release an autobiography by the age of 30. Andy Murray released one at 21, Lewis Hamilton at 22 and David Beckham at 26 (albeit a picture book). Thankfully Jenson Button has decided not to mark his world championship by sharing stories of sitting on the school bus, instead releasing one about his championship winning year, imaginatively titled, My Championship Year.
The book follows the well worn, but still magical, story of Button's 2009 year; starting with a phone call telling him Honda had withdrawn from F1 and ending with his spirited drive in Abu Dhabi. At first glance it may seem little more than a stocking filler for the nephew who showed a passing interest in Formula One last June but, for Button fans at least, there is a little bit more than that.
It offers plenty of content, from car set-up to personal stories, but all too often just recounts what you would have seen watching the races on TV. It can feel like reading the great book of drivers' excuses, but with a bit of perseverance, it does offer explanations that may not have been obvious from the settee. This means the accounts from races where he was struggling are often the most enjoyable to read.
A perfect example is the chapter on the British Grand Prix. He ended up qualifying sixth, but in the book he reveals he could have done better had his race engineer not made a mistake by cutting his final lap short. It may sound minor, but there are similar stories throughout the book and they eventually give a deeper understanding of Button's year.
Sadly these nuggets can be missed as the layout and sheer word-count of the book does tend to make your eyes glaze-over. In total the book comes to over 220 A4 pages and many of those are filled with what seems like size four font. The sheer volume of copy isn't helped by some of the turns of phrase and cheesy anecdotes, which wouldn't be out of place in an episode of The Office, and make the stories from his personal life seem a little forced. One such example is his camel riding experience in Abu Dhabi:
"It was beautifully done with a feast of traditional Arabian food and camels to ride on. As they say… 'When in Rome'. Getting on a camel must rank as one of the funniest experiences. They lurch forwards and backwards as they get up from their knees and we almost lost Jessica [Michibata - Button's girlfriend], who was close to being catapulted through the air."
Nevertheless, the book is far more original than the rushed, out-for-Christmas biography approach taken by most sportsmen. It has some nice touches, such as text messages from friends and family offering support, and in contrast, the more fickle judgements of the press. For these reasons this Christmas present should hold your nephew's interest beyond Boxing Day and, with luck, into the New Year.
Title: My Championship Year
Author: Jenson Button
Published by: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1