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Jenson Button opens up on his departure from Formula 1

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Ahead of his maiden Le Mans 24 Hours race, Jenson Button has revealed his new found happiness since leaving Formula One at the end of the 2016 season.

Speaking to ESPN, Button expressed his wish to leave the sport half-way through an unsuccessful 2016 with a crumbling McLaren team.

Talking about life away from the F1 paddock, the British driver said: "It's been awesome. I've definitely done my years in F1 and stepping away was great, it was a good time for me to do it. Realistically, if I'd had the choice, I would have left half-way through the year [2016].

"I'm much happier as a person now, life is great, and I'm racing things I've always wanted to race in."

Since debuting in 2000, Button went on to race in 17 Formula One seasons, becoming world champion with Brawn in 2009.

His final victory came at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012, but Button stayed with the British constructor, enduring a difficult time as they fell further and further down the pecking order.

A year and a half following his inevitable decision to retire, Button has opted to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours for the very first time; driving for Russian team, SMP Racing.

Button's invigorated demeanor comes as no surprise, following the announcement of his engagement to partner, Brittany Ward.

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Race

In motorsport, the Somerset-born driver is coinciding his World Endurance Championship duties to sign with SMP for the remainder of it's "Super Season", running until next year's Le Mans.

Guaranteed at least two attempts at the prestigious Le Mans race, Button spoke about his lack of testing having missed WEC's season opener at Spa due to his Super GT commitments, leaving him with limited time behind the wheel of the LMP1 cars.

"It's a shame I couldn't more testing, four hours around Magny-Cours doesn't really get you ready for Le Mans, but it was good to get used to the switches and things like that. I've learned everything about the car here, really."

With changes to WEC looking likely, including a potential move to hypercars, the opportunity for Button to race with SMP this year was too good to turn down.

"Le Mans is something I also wanted to do but I didn't want to wait until I was 40 to do it," adds Button, who is now 38. "Who knows what's going to happen in two years, you'll have manufacturers involved and have more of a hypercar base, is what they are saying.

AUTO-FRA-24H-ENDURANCE-LE MANS

"They won't be as quick as these cars so it's nice to get into these monsters to drive round in. Doing anything around here in under three minutes twenty [seconds] is just madness. So that's very exciting."

Asked how he has found the cars, he said: "It's completely the opposite of what I thought. I thought I would have a lot of power and not a lot of grip in the high-speed, especially compared to the Super GT I'm used to in Japan. But it felt like it had very low power and very good grip in high-speed corners.

"I know it's not -- we're doing 338km/h on the straights, which is not slow, but the downforce the car produces here is very impressive here in high-speed corners."

With fatigue often a problem in the gruelling race, Button's triathlon experience will inevitably set him well for the long contest.

SuperGT Official Test

"I think my levels of fatigue are not an issue because I've done triathlons for years, four-and-a-half-hour races, pushing yourself a lot harder than you're pushing yourself here. Here it's more mental than physical, I think that's the bigger issue I'm not used to, reacting to things for that period of time.

"I don't know if you ever get used to it. It's not natural to be awake for 36 hours, whatever we are -- we're up at 7 in the morning and the race doesn't start until 3, so it's a much longer day than people think. The Le Mans 32 Hours, basically!"

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Topics:
Jenson Button
McLaren
Formula 1

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