Motorhead

Jenson Button’s touching tribute to late Dad with new helmet

Jenson Button marked the passing of his father John, who died earlier this month, with a message and a picture depicting Papa Smurf.

"RIP PAPA," read the message alongside the image and the Union Jack.

Jenson said he has been left "devastated" by the sudden and tragic loss of his father, who died of a suspected heart attack aged 70.

Affectionately known as “the old boy”, or “Papa Smurf” to the Formula One paddock, John Button was always at Jenson’s side and became a huge favourite to fellow drivers, fans and officials all around the world.

From Jenson's early days karting in Frome, Somerset, to his 2009 championship triumph at Interlagos, John was there with his big smile and supportive remarks.

He followed his son's progress through the lower formulas to his debut with Williams in 2000 and before that even enjoyed his own successful career in rallycross in the 1970s.

Button said that his father enabled him to “discover the thrill of winning”, and that his Brazil triumph was the “fulfilment of a dream that started more than 20 years ago when the old boy gave me my first kart”.

“I had the biggest hug with the old boy. We were locked in a clinch. I didn’t let go because I was talking to him, talking about what we’ve all been through.”

Button’s McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “In my long Formula One career, I’ve encountered many drivers’ fathers, but I think it’s safe to say that John was perhaps more devoted to his son than any of them.

“Ever since Jenson was a boy, racing go-karts, his dad has been at his side, helping him, supporting him, finding the money for the next race.

“As Jenson grew older, and continued to win in cars, still John was always there, his most steadfast helper and supporter.

“And, even now, in recent years, during which Jenson has become the consummate Formula One world champion that he is, still John was ever-present, as loyal and as loving as ever, a benign and popular member of Jenson’s small and intimate entourage.”

The driver now faces the tough prospect of embarking upon this F1 season without his biggest fan for the first time, something he has been dreading to even think about.

Button finally got out on track for McLaren on the second day of the first pre-season test in Jerez, Spain when the new helmet appeared.