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Blistering Button tackles London Triathlon

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F1 Mole | 16:00 UK time, Sunday, 2 August 2009

After six grands prix victories this season, watching Jenson Button cross the finish line has become a familiar sight in Formula 1 but on Sunday the Brawn driver was a little bit harder to spot.

With a final burst of adrenalin, the world championship leader flashed past the finish in a blur of grey shorts with his hair slicked flat to his face.

Was that him?

The watching Mole couldn't be sure because Button was just another face among 6,000 amateur athletes testing their mettle in the London Triathlon.

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Luckily the flash of the snappers' cameras and the extra-special cheers gave it away.

It was Button, and what's more he had raced through the Olympic distance - a 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and a 10km run - in a personal best time of two hours and seven minutes.

"I think I'm going to collapse now," joked a surprisingly buoyant Button afterwards.

"I didn't push too hard in the swim as I have done before and I got it done in 24 minutes so I'm very happy.

"I was massively quicker than I expected on the bike, one hour and three minutes, and then I took the first lap of the run relatively easy before giving it the beans on the second lap to finish in 35.02 mins.

"I feel really good. There was only one thing my trainer failed on. He told me not to fill my water bottle up to the top because I wouldn't drink it all but I got halfway round and it was completely gone, so I struggled a bit there."

Jenson Button in swimming mode

Button was taking part in the triathlon to raise funds for the Make A Wish Foundation but to spice things up he also entered his Brawn GP race engineers Andrew Shovlin and Peter Bonnington in Saturday's sprint race.

"People think they sit in a truck and push buttons while I sit down and drive a race car, which they think is easy, but this proves that we do train a lot," Button said.

"I pushed myself to the limit in the triathlon and it is different to driving a car for a start my heart beat is a lot higher when I'm swimming and running.

"But when I'm racing the lactic acid builds up through the vibrations and all the G-forces make it very tiring.

"It's great to do this for F1 because it shows how much the drivers have to train and that we don't just sit there and turn the wheel."

For Shov and Bono, who finished almost exactly a minute ahead of his fellow race engineer in 1:18.14, it was a chance to turn the tables on Button and get some racing tips from a driver.

"Jenson's been teaching us what to do," says Shov. "It was a role reversal because he was telling me how to save time!"

Button revealed it had been a bit of a team effort by Brawn to get him race ready for the triathlon.

He even popped himself on the bike in the team's wind tunnel in Brackley so the engineers could hone his aerodynamics.

"The team were looking at aero for the Tour de France and asked me if I wanted a go," explained Button.

"It was good because Ross Brawn came over to have a little look - he was a cyclist back in the day. I'm very lucky because I have had a lot of help."

After his exertions in the capital, Button is heading home to Monaco to take some time off before F1 rolls into Valencia for the European Grand Prix on 23 August.

Button, who leads the championship by 18.5 points from Red Bull's Mark Webber, will rejoin battle with the Red Bulls, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren, which returned to winning ways in Hungary, and a chap called Michael Schumacher, who is back behind the wheel of a Ferrari in place of the injured Felipe Massa.

But before then the 29-year-old is ready to relax and recover with just one thing playing on his mind.

"I'm worried about getting sand from the beach in the blisters on my feet," he frowned. "That's the worse thing.

"Otherwise, it'll take a couple of weeks for these legs to recover and then we are going to get back on track and challenge for the win."


  • 1. At 5:11pm on 02 Aug 2009, Pompey Lackey wrote:

    Top stuff. Nice to see a sportsman doing something different. That time is not half bad.

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  • 2. At 6:24pm on 02 Aug 2009, Graham wrote:

    Well done JB.

    Although you beat me by some distance in the water, I do quite a bit of biking so started the run a little bit in front of you.

    As for the running I think I could have stayed ahead of you to the finish line if, just 100m from the end, I hadn't woken up!!

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  • 3. At 6:44pm on 02 Aug 2009, carolpeterg wrote:

    Didn't a certain Bradley Smith also take part in the Triathlon?
    A certain Bradley Smith who is our BEST 125cc rider in the world
    championship this year. Come on BBC credit where credit is due.

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  • 4. At 7:44pm on 02 Aug 2009, daggersfan3 wrote:

    Hear hear Carolpeterg.

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  • 5. At 7:50pm on 02 Aug 2009, FastBBBB wrote:

    All the other drivers had the right idea. Don't put your legs under any harm when leading the championship. He doesn't need to do it any more as he only did it because it was the only thing he was competitive in.

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  • 6. At 8:52pm on 02 Aug 2009, Itsallaboutwinning wrote:

    The stated timings don't make much sense Button reckons he did 24 mins for the swim, 35 mins for the run and the bike was 1 hour and 3 mins so how does this add up to 2 hours and seven??? Even if you max the seconds. Also his engineer finished in 1 hour 18 14??? Nearly fify mins ahead - I think not - good post but rubbish statistics - sums the BBC up actually.


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  • 7. At 9:23pm on 02 Aug 2009, harringr wrote:

    Hi SteveInMalta,

    the times given by Jenson Button (24min swim, 1hr3min bike and 35min run) don't take into account the transition times (the time taken to change kit, get bike etc, inbetween the 3 main disciplines), and it's these transition times that bring the total up to 2hrs7mins.

    Also, his Brawn engineers were racing the sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run), whilst Jenson was racing in the Olympic distance, (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run)... which explains the discrepancies you noted...

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  • 8. At 9:24pm on 02 Aug 2009, mavalex wrote:

    SteveINMalta you should read things and use your brain a bit. Triathlons have transitions so the "missing" time is actually whilst he was swapping kit etc. And it says quite clearly the engineers were in the sprint triathlon the previous day which is a 400m swim, a 20k bike and a 5k run...

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  • 9. At 9:28pm on 02 Aug 2009, tomsarge87 wrote:

    First time blog, just had to comment on STEVEINMALTA's comments. For someone criticising the bbc's statistics should surely at least check what he's saying.
    'race engineers Andrew Shovlin and Peter Bonnington in Saturday's sprint race.'

    Saturdays sprint event, you may not know already but if complaining you should check what this means, the sprint is a shorter version than the olympic distances button did hence the quicker time

    as for your second comment, those were his splits, one of the best ways to save time in the triathlon is during changovers, he hasn't ioncluded these in his spilt times. Once again you don't have to know this but if you're going to complain should at elast check!!
    well done Button!

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  • 10. At 9:31pm on 02 Aug 2009, ags1967 wrote:

    Jenson did the Olympic Distance, the others did the sprint!! Thats why theres a difference.

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  • 11. At 9:32pm on 02 Aug 2009, Trifan09 wrote:


    The blog didn't report the times for T1 and T2 which would plausibly add up to the 5 minutes of time unaccounted for.

    The blog clearly states that the engineers participated in a SPRINT distance race and not an OLYMPIC distance race and hence they were able to finish 50 minutes quicker (it's half the distance).

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  • 12. At 9:38pm on 02 Aug 2009, buymespresso wrote:

    carolpeterg, 125cc isnt a real sport, and the BBC knows that.

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  • 13. At 9:40pm on 02 Aug 2009, buymespresso wrote:

    When did Button get the time to train for this? And it surely has nothing to do with his poorer (relatively) performance in recent weeks, right? Right? (Kudos to him, btw.)

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  • 14. At 9:41pm on 02 Aug 2009, Snyperr wrote:

    Nice one JB - can't imagine Nigel Mansell ever being able to do a triathlon that fast! Just goes to show that these days the drivers are genuine sportsmen. Also - good to see someone willing to make a real effort for a good cause.

    And by the way SteveINMalta: the times are close enough - especially when you add in a bit for time in transition between stages. And the engineers were entered in the sprint race over a shorter distance - thats why the time was so much quicker. So yes it is a good post, and yes the stats add up - someone serve up some humble pie ...

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  • 15. At 10:23pm on 02 Aug 2009, Suzanne wrote:

    FastBBBB - Jenson raised over £11k for charity by competing in the triathlon. What did you do today?

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  • 16. At 10:26pm on 02 Aug 2009, Suzanne wrote:

    Scrap that, it's £16.7k!

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  • 17. At 11:07pm on 02 Aug 2009, poleblog wrote:

    Well done Jenson,a good cause, hope your F1 car picks ups the pace for the rest of the season.

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  • 18. At 11:17pm on 02 Aug 2009, muswellchill wrote:

    It's great that he entered and well done Jenson, but there were 12,999 other triathletes competing this weekend. Some BBC (or anyone else for that matter) coverage would be nice. This was my first major tri and loved it. This is a massive sport in the UK, but never gets any mainstream media coverage, except when an F1 driver takes part.

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  • 19. At 01:10am on 03 Aug 2009, riley_ives wrote:

    Cracking effort Jenson!

    Muswellchill, yes it's slightly irritating about the lack of mainstream coverage of triathlon but if JB wasn't racing then there would be even less coverage so we shouldn't complain too much!

    For a world class athlete to take time out of his schedule to raise money for charity should be commended and I'll certainly be supporting him to hopefully winning the world title

    also congratulations to caroline, big al, nicky and pete who all got pbs!

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  • 20. At 09:22am on 03 Aug 2009, johnnyAbs wrote:

    Very impressive time. Hats off Jensen guessing he had a fairly decent bike.

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  • 21. At 10:44am on 03 Aug 2009, Andrew Benson wrote:

    Hi all,

    I edit the F1 Mole blog, as you can see from the top of the page.

    I notice a few of you have asked about 125cc MotoGP rider Bradley Smith's performance in the triathlon. The reason that was not mentioned in the article was that this is the F1 Mole and its subject is F1. In this case, of course, that means Jenson Button.

    But, for those of you who are interested, Smith finished the triathlon in two hours 13 minutes and 36 seconds.

    And for those of you interested in Button's exact times - including the transitions - they were:

    Swim: 24.01
    T1: 2.49
    Bike: 1.02.55
    T2: 1.37
    Run: 35.42
    Total: 2.07.02

    Over the weekend 10,000 competitors took part in the event at London's Docklands.

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  • 22. At 11:46am on 03 Aug 2009, Murrays_Grandson wrote:

    I don't want to knock Jenson's charity raising efforts (£16.7k according to Suzanne), but I wonder how much money it cost to run his wind tunnel simulations for his bike aero position (thinking, it being F1 they probably cost thousands every minute to run).

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  • 23. At 12:00pm on 03 Aug 2009, KhairuI wrote:

    Andrew Benson - fair enough, it is about F1 but there have been times in the past where you have delved into non-F1 territory. I particularly remember a Mole article exclusively about GP2! So, the policy isn't really strictly F1.

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  • 24. At 12:26pm on 03 Aug 2009, A Moussa Have wrote:

    Ha SteveInMalta

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  • 25. At 2:32pm on 03 Aug 2009, Cotswoldrambler wrote:

    I would like to know Button's finishing position.

    Hats off to Andrew Shovlin and Peter Bonnington for their efforts. I was impressed when they agreed to take part (it must be relatively easy to do some training alongside an F1 driver - as long as you don't have to keep up!) but it was something they had no need to do.

    As for the bike in the wind tunnel - the cost would have been minimal as it was set up for a customer's use for the Tour de France and only needed a few extra minutes. The real cost of a tunnel is simply having it exist and being able to start it up.

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  • 26. At 3:40pm on 03 Aug 2009, The Artist formerly known as wrote:

    Cotswod Rambler - out of the non-elite, Button came 2nd in his age group - That is - Male Olympic 25-29, which was won by Robert Brundish, who was two and a half minutes ahead of Button.

    Oh yes, and Bradley Smith came 7th in the 17-24 age group, in a time of 2:13:36

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  • 27. At 09:46am on 04 Aug 2009, adam wrote:

    Don't hold me to this but I think Jenson did the triathlon last year as well. Anyway fantastic achievement. Really hoping he wins the championship this year not sure he'll have a chance next year all the other cars have got their act together. Hope the Brawn's pace picks up next race.

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  • 28. At 12:25pm on 04 Aug 2009, colin wrote:

    Well done jenon.Can you follow it up with some podium,s preferly top step.

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  • 29. At 7:18pm on 04 Aug 2009, Pasinho wrote:

    Good stuff. It's always nice to see F1 drivers competing in other events. They can't seem to help their competitive nature. Kimi Raikkonen in World Rally in Finland was also pretty impressive (running 3rd in the N group with a car that had plenty of technical problems, until he drove to the forest on the last stage).

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  • 30. At 8:46pm on 04 Aug 2009, Paddy Nesbitt wrote:

    Well done JB, a fine result indeed. This shows how fit you race drivers have to be these days, and it's 'one in the eye' for the disbelievers

    Enjoy your rest now Jenson before the F1 party rolls into Valencia and let's get a decent result and show that old German fellow he isn't the king now ;-)

    As a side note, I've just seen Massa's interview. I'm glad he's recovering and in good spirits. I hope we see him back in F1 as soon as possible

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  • 31. At 10:50pm on 04 Aug 2009, Blixy21 wrote:

    This is a very impressive time for Jenson Button. I am, however, appalled to see that the BBC decided not to bother acknowledging the effort of the winners on Sunday. Well done Will Clark and Helen Jenkins!!!

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  • 32. At 1:03pm on 05 Aug 2009, ValentinoRobbi wrote:

    Andrew Benson - Bradley Smith being in this race is totally relevant. Button competing in this triathlon came about because of Hamilton claiming that he was the fittest man in the world! Then Button challenged him to this triathlon. As we all know Hamilton "chickened out". Bradley Smith then told Button that he'd take up his challenge, with proceeds going to charity. So, without Bradley, Jenson would probably not have even been in it and you would not be reporting it.

    ps, everyone give the malta guy a break, I read it wrongly as that too!

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  • 33. At 7:19pm on 05 Aug 2009, daggersfan3 wrote:

    12. At 9:38pm on 02 Aug 2009, buymespresso wrote:
    carolpeterg, 125cc isnt a real sport, and the BBC knows that.
    ...or, maybe you think that. What do you reckon CC stands for? Chicken curry? Chocolate cookies? Lol
    I don't call Motorsport sport but if you can call F1 ie. sticking an engine in an aerodynamically refined box a sport, and then decide that Motorcycling, which is sticking an engine in a differently shaped box is not a sport? Logic given you the slip or something?

    PS. Be a man LH

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