“Life to the Limit”: Button’s autobiography reviewed

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Jenson Button still doesn’t feel like getting into the whys and wherefores of how he almost left BAR for Williams in the mid-2000s, so his new autobiography skips over it.

“I would go into the nitty-gritty but you’d switch off,” he says. The thing is, if you’ve shelled out 20 quid for “Life To The Limit”, that’s probably one of several details from his past you’re curious about.

Some evasiveness is perhaps to be expected when it comes to passages from his past which might not reflect him at his best. But it wasn’t the only time this book left me feeling short-changed.

Take Button’s account of the 2005 United States Grand Prix. BAR had already been banned from two races that year, so joining in the en masse withdrawal of 14 Michelin-shod cars from the 20-car field must’ve felt particularly galling for him?

“It would take far too long to go into the ins and outs of it,” surmises Button as he hurries to the end of another widely-spaced, five-page chapter. Yet just a few pages ago he had enough time to tell me which of the world’s hotel rooms is his favourite.

It’s not unusual for autobiographies to dwell on success and fast-forward through failure. But this version of the Button story is so heavily edited it does feel like the self-censorship has become self-serving.

The selected highlights of Button’s past which have made it onto the printed page are mostly told well with many candid observations and revealing tales. The text has a conversational tone which suits the style, though it rambles a bit in places.

It also has the feel of a project which suffered from the waning enthusiasm of its author. The opening chapters on his early forays into racing with his adored father are by far the most rewarding to read. His later seasons with McLaren get only passing mentions.

There’s enough in it to hold your interest, just. But ultimately the omissions from this book leave a bigger impression than its content.

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Life to the Limit: My autobiography

Author: Jenson Button
Publisher: Blink Publishing
Published: 2017
Pages: 344
Price: £20.00
ISBN: 9781911600343


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on ““Life to the Limit”: Button’s autobiography reviewed”

  1. Not related to Jenson’s book in particular, but where on earth does this trend of ex-Formula 1 people writing a book come from. I get it if there is great external interest, many years after events took place. But [in my opinion] a bit too many people from the F1 paddock feel themselves sufficiently important that they deserve to release a book about their life and get attention for it. It’s obviously up to them to do whatever they want, no one is forced to read it, but this attention sneaking behavior and level of self-significance that annoys me. It’s not like these people have massive revelations to share, nor is their life actually that interesting. To me it seems like a typical celebrity thing to do: releasing a book – another box checked; let’s brag about it at the next “charity” gala.

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      5th November 2017, 18:47

      I think people would be far more interested on a book about their time in Formula 1, or maybe their entire racing career in general. Webber got the chance to reveal what it was like racing for Red Bull alongside Sebastian Vettel in his book, for example, and Hamilton hinted at revealing more information about how 2016 went at Mercedes.

    2. There’s a book about that ;)

      The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by PH D Jean M Twenge PH.D.

    3. @me4me I am not sure it is the will of the drivers themselves to write books but instead some people who are interested about the profit behind it.

      They would certainly receive many calls of people wanting the insight on some stories to sell them and benefit from it. Probably that the best way to get rid of them is to provide part of the story that you are ready/allow to tell so that it buys the ex-drivers some quiter time.

    4. It’s been happening for decades. Indeed, the last few years have been relatively short of this sort of thing.

      1. Seriously. If @me4me thinks this is bad, then he clearly wasn’t around for the autobiography boom of the early 00s where 18- to 20-year old H-list celebrities thought it wise put their “life story” to paper. Even as someone who loves these type of books, those were some inane times.

  2. @keithcollantine there’s a typo on “their”, last paragraph

  3. It also has the feel of a project which suffered from the waning enthusiasm of its author.

    Much like Jensen’s career.

  4. Have corrected a mistake in here which said Jessica Michibata isn’t mentioned in the book.

  5. I’ve just finished it (got it for £10 at waterstones). First half about his dad, karting etc great. It does illustrate:
    – how he lost some interest post winning WC (and maybe why Rosberg was right to leave on top)
    – how much further motivation he lost when his dad died
    – and why he married Jessica

    One for button fans – but worth a tenner – Button is still missed.

  6. I was stunned the McLaren-Honda partnership was not even mentioned in the book, let alone discussed.

    1. The book is most likely written at the time when Honda and McLaren still had contracts.
      Since there isnt any particular positive outcome from the time I am not sure he would be allowed to say much he couldnt stand by.

      Its better to skip the whole ordeal.

      In my opinion he should have waited some years so that he could shed some light on this aswell.

  7. I haven’t read it so I may be wrong, but I get the feeling the 100% unimaginative insert-generic-motorsport-biography-title “Life To The Limit” is a good judge of how bland this will be.

    1. You do get a lot of the same rubbish titles over and over again.

      However Steve Matchett’s “Life in the Fast Lane” is, despite its naff title, really good.

    2. It’s at least the third racing book with this title, or a very similar one. Sid Watkins’ first book was way better than this one sounds, and I’m sure Graham Hill’s was too. And ploughing through a load of words hammered out for a publisher on JB’s behalf is kind of missing the point. Watching or listening to him would show his character much better.

      I keep thinking he should have swapped titles with Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography, “What Does This Button Do?”

  8. Willem Cecchi (@)
    6th November 2017, 5:44

    Read it. Rather disappointed.

  9. I’ll pop this one down near the bottom of my reading list then…at least the price will have gone down from £20 by then.

    I’m a bit annoyed that the BAR/Williams contract fight has been missed out, that is the only reason I wanted to read this because I have never been able to work out exactly what went on there!

    1. I was disappointed with that too when I read the book, it is literally glossed over within a few sentences but i remember back then it was a massive deal in the press. Because of course when Jenson moved to Renault (benetton before becoming renault in 2002) he wanted the whole “move back to Williams” clause because they were stronger back then and remained so through to 2003…then 20004 BAR had a strong season and Williams started their slow downfall so he wanted out.

      Would have been fascinating to hear what went on behind the scenes there as i am sure Williams were making things difficult

      That kinda sums the book up though…the real nitty gritty detail about his time in F1 is completely lacking and it’s a shame.

  10. The Damon Hill recent book was a good read. I enjoyed it very much. I’ve read a few race driver books some very good others not so much. Jackie Stewart’s recent book was good. My favourite must be Gilles Villeneuve’s book.

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