What Jenson Button does before a race

Published: 17 May 2011

CAR Racing spoke to Mike Collier, Jenson Button's F1 race physio who looks after Button in the build-up to each grand prix. Here's the packed schedule a driver like Button typically sticks to before a race. 

3.00pm: Qualifying ends

Jenson has a lot of interviews to do after the session. They can be quite difficult, or brilliant, depending on how the session has gone. There are usually some marketing activities scheduled in for this time as well, so I don’t get to see him for about an hour after the session ends.

4.00pm: Recovery

When he gets back to the motorhome, he gets changed and has a protein drink that’s formulated by me and made by the chefs at McLaren. It’s a Pure Whey, the most concentrated form of protein, together with some banana, water, berries and a little bit of honey. That helps to repair any damage that may have occurred during qualifying and it’s also a natural form of carbohydrate, so it gives him a bit of energy.

4.30pm: Post-qualifying debrief

Jenson and the engineers discuss what went well or badly during the session. There isn’t too much talk about strategy at this point; the discussions are about where the team lies in relation to the competition.

5.00pm: ‘Meet The Team’ media session

This is a media session attended by Jenson, Lewis [Hamilton] and Martin [Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal].

5.30pm: Strategy meeting

Jenson and Lewis put various race strategies through a race simulator programme to see how they pan out. The system identifies the pros and cons of each particular race strategy in a competitive environment.

6.00pm: Leave the circuit

Saturdays are generally an early leave, which is welcome given that Thursdays and Fridays can be quite late. We go back to the hotel or motorhome, depending where we are, and we’ll relax before going out to dinner.

8.00pm: Dinner

Saturday evenings are the one time in the race weekend when Jenson will focus on consuming carbohydrates. He’ll look at consuming over and above the norm to have significant stores in the body in preparation for the race. That could be a pasta with some tuna, for example.

11.00pm: Bed

Jenson won’t try to get a ridiculously early night because he’s still on a bit of a high from qualifying, so he’ll find it difficult to go to sleep if he goes to bed at 9.30-10.00pm. He’ll aim to be in bed at 11.00pm and he won’t drink alcohol. The only time he drinks is if he does well on a Sunday. It’s not a case of him not being allowed to drink; it’s a choice. If you consume more than one drink, it affects your sleep pattern and that affects recovery.

9.00am: Alarm

If we’re staying in a hotel, we’ll go to the pool first thing for a bit of light exercise. It’s a good way to get him into the right frame of mind for racing.

10.00am: Breakfast

A natural yogurt with sunflower seeds, berries and a little bit of honey. He also tends to eat eggs in the morning because they are a very good form of protein and they contain hardly any fat.

11.00am: Arrive at circuit

Jenson likes to be at the track three hours before the start of the race. As soon as he arrives, the team normally ask him to do a bit of media or marketing. It’s at this point that he starts an intensive hydration programme. He drinks about one litre of fluid every hour for the three hours before the start. That’s why you’ll often see him clutching a drinks’ bottle. The drink contains electrolytes, carbohydrates and various other things, depending on the ambient temperature. We monitor his weight before and after every practice and qualifying session. That gives us an idea of how much is being lost when he is in the car, and we’ll then hyper-hydrate him so that the net loss at the end of the race is less than one kilo.

11.30am: Engineers’ time

This is usually just a short meeting to see if the team has made any changes or discoveries to their plans from the previous night.

12.00pm: Lunch

Jenson always likes to eat two hours before the start. He’ll have a little bit of natural carbohydrate, which might be fruit, and a course. Typically, this would be lettuce, beetroot, goat’s cheese and grilled tuna.

12.30pm: Drivers’ parade

All of the drivers are transported around the circuit on the back of a bus. Or, at the flyaway’s they are each driven around in a car of some sort.

12.45pm: Warm-up

His pre-race routine focuses on a massage-based warm-up. He likes to have a little bit of time to himself to gather his thoughts, but he doesn’t sleep. He then gets changed and aims to be in the pit garage for 1.20pm.

1.30pm: Pitlane opens

The pitlane remains open for 15 minutes, during which time Jenson makes his way around to the grid. Once there, he’ll hop out of the car, talk to his engineers and do a few TV interviews. He always goes to the toilet just before getting back in the car with about 10 minutes to go.

2.00pm: Race Start

Fingers crossed the last 24 hours' preparation pays off!




By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller