'I'm all for trying new things': Former F1 champion Jenson Button tries durian and zi char, shares lessons learnt from track

'I'm all for trying new things': Former F1 champion Jenson Button tries durian and zi char, shares lessons learnt from track
Jenson Button had his first taste of durian during his recent trip in Singapore.
PHOTO: Singapore Tourism Board

Former Formula One (F1) champion Jenson Button visited Singapore nine times between 2008 and 2016, but never got to explore much of the city.

Back then, he was here for work, racing at the Singapore Grand Prix.

"It's kind of a shame, because you're so focused on racing that you don't see enough of your surroundings," the 43-year-old told AsiaOne in an interview on Sunday (Sept 17).

"It's a big thing with Formula One — you arrive, you land at the airport, you go to the hotel, you go to the circuit, you go back to the hotel. It's a shame," he added. 

Jenson is back in Singapore for the first time since his retirement. He shared with AsiaOne what he got up to over the last two days — waking up at 5.30am on the day of our interview to sightsee — and also discussed the lessons he's learnt over the years in F1 that have helped him to succeed. 

"It's lovely to come back here and be on the other side," he explained. "I can still go and watch practice and qualifying, but I get to see Singapore from a very different angle, which is really exciting.

"I didn't realise that you could fit so much into a city and there's so much to do here. It's been a really fun couple of days."


Highlights of his trip included visiting Sentosa and Keong Saik Road in Chinatown, the latter of which fascinated him with its blend of old and new architecture.

Though he thinks the modern architecture in Singapore is "wonderful" and "second to none", it was the old conserved shophouses that fascinated Jenson.

"My wife is actually an interior designer and architectural designer, so now I walk around and purposely look around at buildings and history," he said.

"It's really interesting with the different kinds of shophouses that you have — a lot of old, small shops, but then you have big brands that have tried to come into those shophouses and paint them their own colours but still keep them very cool and old-fashioned." 

Being a self-proclaimed foodie, Jenson had previously been to great restaurants in Singapore, but this time he was in the mood for local fare — visiting Kok Sen Restaurant on Keong Saik Road for its zi char specialties.

"It was great to try something local, not to go to a steak restaurant or something," he told us.

He tried a variety of dishes, including their signature prawn paste chicken and poached Chinese cabbage with century egg. He also disclosed his preference for the "flat" rice noodles in seafood hor fun to the "smaller" bee hoon noodles in the prawn mee.

After that, it was time to take a short walk to 99 Old Trees to try the king of fruits, durian. 

"It was definitely a 'love it or hate it' [fruit], durian, which was a great experience," he said, before apologetically adding: "I'm not the biggest fan, but I'm all for trying new things, and it was a great and memorable time in my life I will never, ever forget." 

Other than trying the real deal, he also got a taste of the beloved local dessert, durian chendol.

'You don't get to enjoy what should be the best job in the world'

Jenson joined F1 in the year 2000 at the young age of 20, winning his championship in 2009 at the age of 29.

Through his elite racing experience, he believes having a healthy support system is key to success for young drivers who are under pressure when they're starting out — a lesson which perhaps could also apply to us regular folks off the track.

Jenson admitted that drivers are "massively" lucky to get to drive F1 cars and travel the world but said: "The pressure that you put on yourself to succeed and that's put on you from outside, the teams and sponsors — a lot of the drivers don't enjoy it, and that's the most difficult thing.

"They come into the sport, it's what they've dreamt about their whole lives, and they're put under so much pressure that they don't get to enjoy what should be the best job in the world." 

He added that rookies may be afraid that they'll be dropped from their role if they have a bad season and have to "go look for another job".

Mick Schumacher, son of legendary Michael Schumacher, was given the boot at the end of last year following two seasons at Haas due to a lack of performance. He was replaced by an F1 veteran, Nico Hulkenburg.


"There's a lot of pressure put on the drivers at a very young age, and they're not given time to grow, not just as a driver but as a human being. They're so young, they're 20 or younger when they come into the sport," he said.

Though Jenson agrees that people expect drivers to be "strong enough and good enough" from the get-go, they may hit their peaks at different points.

"Being 20 and being thrown into this world, this circus, it's very young," he added. "And we all need help in that situation and having the support of good people around you to help you through that."



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