Jenson Button: “If I had to draw my dream car as a kid, the Hypercar would be it!”

Last month it was announced that 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button would join the 2024 FIA WEC grid driving for Hertz Team JOTA. spoke to the British driver to get his thoughts on the upcoming WEC season and why he decided it was the right time to return to the world’s premier endurance racing series.

Hi Jenson, welcome back to the WEC!

“Thanks - this is a fantastic opportunity with Hertz Team JOTA. It's a team that I've watched for several years and I've got many friends that work for the team. It was such an exciting opportunity to race in a championship that is one of the most competitive categories in motorsport right now… and to do it with a privateer team fighting against the big manufacturers is very exciting.”

Why did you make the choice to return to WEC now?

“Well, I've been racing since F1 - I raced in Japan in Super GT, I was in WEC in 2018. I've tried loads of different things… the 24 Hours of Daytona too but you feel that you don't maximise what you can achieve with one-off races. And you don't get the best out of yourself doing it that way. So, I wanted to do a full season. You don't get a lot of practice pre-season and I wanted to do a whole season to see what we could achieve in WEC this year.”

Tell us about the Hypercar machinery – how can you compare them with other cars you’ve previously driven?

“An F1 car, for example, the technology is through the roof and it's the pinnacle of aerodynamics. But they’re not as technically advanced as a Hypercar - an LMDh car has 38 pages explaining just what the steering wheel does! There are so many switches, you can adjust many different things for the same issue. There's a lot to learn from a drivers’ point of view. Obviously the driving is the same but there's so much more you can adjust within the car to help an issue that you have on track – it’s staggering the amount of stuff and it blows your mind. That takes a while to get used to.”

You raced in the final IMSA round last season with the Porsche 963, how did that go?

“Yes, I did Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. I had one day of testing before the race and I got used to driving the car pretty quickly but it's all the tech stuff that takes a while to get used to. It feels like there's 20 switches for one thing, but they all do it slightly differently. These cars are very clever - they learn as you drive around as well. You can pinpoint certain corners of the data that you want something to change and it will change without touching anything  - very clever but very complex. It takes a different type of driver. There’s skill on track but you need to be an expert in engineering as well.”

Do you still get the same level of excitement jumping into a car now as you did in your early days of karting?

“Yes! It's still the same as when I first drove a kart when I was eight-years-old. There’s just a bit more going on but it becomes second nature when you really know the systems. I feel that I'm not quite there yet. Driving is the bit that we all love and you still control the car with your feet, hands and your bum in terms of feeling - that hasn't changed. And I have to say the Hypercars are the coolest looking cars ever - you know if I drew a car when I was a kid, it would have been a Hypercar!”

In 2024, you’ll enter your third 24 Hours of Le Mans – how much do you enjoy that event?

“I used to watch Le Mans back in the 80s and so to go back to Le Mans and race in the WEC is exciting. That team atmosphere that you have is very different to F1 where your team-mate is the first person you’ve got to beat. In endurance racing, you’re working with your team-mates to develop the car to win races. Everyone thinks Le Mans is just an endurance race and people will take it easy – but it’s not, everyone drives flat out for 24 hours! Plus everyone has already been awake for 40 or so hours – you don’t just wake up and go racing. It’s emotional and that’s the word I would use to describe Le Mans. Whether you win or lose, crash or finish – you just want to cry! You’ve been through so much with your team-mates, you just celebrate the end of the race. That’s what I love about it. It’s a tough race on driver and machine. I can’t believe I’ve only actually raced there twice but I’m looking forward to adding to that tally over the next few years.”

Jenson Button will be in action at the season-opening Qatar 1812km from 1-2 March.