"I see that iPhone sales are doing well out here," Jenson Button quips. The 36-year-old British Formula One driver is speaking to a roomful of invited guests at Michael Kors's flagship store in Mandarin Gallery, Singapore, all of whom are looking at him through their smartphones raised high in the air. Standing at 1.82 metres, Button cuts an impressive figure in a blue Michael Kors suit, an outfit that underscores the New York fashion label's lifestyle partnership with McLaren-Honda.
Button's race at this weekend's Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix leg will be one for fans to remember. After all, he's taking a hiatus from the Formula 1 circuit in 2017, a move that will allow him to race in Rallycross or Japan's Super GT series, and find some time to decompress from life in the fast lane. When he slides into the driver's seat at the Malaysian Grand Prix in a fortnight, he'll tackle his 300th grand prix start, an honour that only other two drivers in the world — Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello — can lay claim to. We put the 2009 Formula One World Champion through a Proustian-style interview before he was whisked off to yet another pitstop in his pre-race publicity circuit.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
My greatest happiness comes from being with the ones I love. To be with family and friends. Then there's success. Motor racing is my love and being able to do that is a dream come true.
What is your greatest fear?
Failure, I think. Along with sharks — but I believe everyone's got that fear.
Which living person do you most admire?
That's a tricky one. It'll probably be a sportsman. I love triathlons and Iron Man triathlons, so it'll be someone from that world, someone like Chris McCormack. He actually lives here in Singapore at the moment. There's also Michael Phelps. I admire him for having done what he's done for so long in such an intense sport.
What is the quality you like most in a woman?
Love and affection. That's so important for me.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
I don't know about phrases, but the most important thing in my job is to always keep learning. You'll never know it all. In a sport that's so complex, with new regulations arising all the time, you should never think you know everything. You've always got to keep learning.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Wow, there're so many things. The thing I would have learnt to love at school is languages and how to play an instrument. That would have been fantastic. Learning at 36 is always very difficult.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Winning the world championship. That has been my dream since I was eight years old. I've achieved that in sport. Obviously the next part of my life is going to be very different, but that is definitely my biggest achievement.
What is your most treasured possession?
That's really difficult. The one that springs to mind is a car that I have. It used to be my father's. My father passed away a couple of years ago. So it's a car that he had, which is now mine. It's a Ferrari 550 [Maranello]. It's a beautiful car, but it's also the memories that make it special for me.
What is your greatest regret?
We all have moments we wish didn't happen but it makes you the person that you are. As long as you learn from the mistakes that you make, that's all you can do.