Jenson Button joins Extreme E as driver and team owner for 2021 season
Jenson Button becomes third F1 champion to launch a team for the all-electric off-road series, which sheds focus on climate change issues; Button will also drive in championship for JBXE; Five-race maiden season live on Sky Sports in 2021, starting in April
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 25/01/21 1:03pm
Jenson Button, the 2009 F1 world champion, has signed up to race for his own team in the all-new Extreme E off-road series.
The Sky Sports F1 expert analyst joins fellow F1 champions Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in launching a team - but Button will also be racing his own car too.
Button's new JBXE team becomes the 10th entry for the inaugural season, which begins in Saudi Arabia in April. Electric SUVs will compete in extreme environments around the world which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues.
Announcing his latest motorsport venture, Button told Sky Sports: "There are three F1 world champions that have a team in Extreme E. There are multiple world champion rally drivers, rally-cross drivers, Dakar champions, off-road champions from the States… it's an insane line-up.
"It's five races around the world in areas that have been affected by climate change and that have big environmental impact from climate change. The great thing is that we will be racing in those places, so it's bringing awareness, which is the whole point of this category, and there will also be scientists on the ground researching those areas and hopefully learning from them so we can put it right in the future.
"There are so many positives to be taken from this championship. I'm really excited about it, excited about competing against the best in the world in off-road and driving these electric vehicles in place that most people haven't ever been before.
"Nobody has put a foot on the ground in some of those areas so it's very exciting and I hope that we can bring as much awareness as possible to those areas."
I’m delighted to announce I will be joining Extreme E for the inaugural season with my team @jbxeracing Can’t wait to get my hands on the Extreme E beast 💪🏽. Thanks again to our fantastic partners Apater Capital and @pipt. Follow @jbxeracing to keep up to date with the teams news pic.twitter.com/7W14XkZ5vS— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) January 25, 2021
'Think Star Wars podracing!'
Since competing in his final Grand Prix in 2017, Button has dovetailed Sky F1 TV duties with racing in numerous sportscar categories - most recently in a one-off British GT appearance two months ago - but in November 2019 also made his off-road racing debut in the gruelling Baja 1000.
The 41-year-old is eager to sample the unique challenge of Extreme E, which is visiting arctic, desert, rainforest, glacier and coastal territories. Each event is split into heats, with races formed of two 16km laps.
Each team must field a male and female driver. Button's team-mate will be announced in the coming weeks.
"You do have rallies around the world, off-roading in America, Dakar, but this is very different," Button explained.
"Sixteen kilometres seems quite long as a loop, but it's more of a sprint race. Think Star Wars when they had the podracing - it's that kind of thing! It's going to be proper action-packed.
"None of us know what to expect. We're arriving at this destination, completely different terrains every race, and finding our way. There will be arrows pointing us in he right direction, but very limited practice and then we're straight into racing head-to-head all the way to the final.
"I'm looking forward to it. I am a little bit nervous, of course - it's something that's totally out of my comfort zone - but I think I'll find my feet pretty quick."
F1 champions reunited
While he may not be renewing F1 rivalries directly with fellow team owners Hamilton and Rosberg in the races, Button is pleased to see his fellow champions involved in the championship too.
"I think Lewis understands the positives about this category. And Nico the same," said Button. "They are both pushing to try and help the environmental issues that we have worldwide. So that's really good to see.
"Lewis being involved especially, with him still racing in Formula 1 and this year most probably going to become the most decorated Formula 1 driver in history, having his input is really going to help the championship and bring a lot of awareness to the areas that we're racing and the issues that we have.
"Racing against his team is going to be tough. He's got [nine-time World Rally champion] Sebastien Loeb, who is one of my heroes from rallying, in his car and I'm going to be up against him. It's funny; I come at it from a very different background to all these guys and these guys are kind of my heroes. So it's going to be really cool. Great competition and really interesting to see how I fare."
Although his new team missed the pre-season test held just before Christmas in Spain, Button's outfit will get up and running in Wales before heading to the Saudi Arabia opener on April 3-4.
"For us it's really late in the day as a team - we've only just finalised everything," added Jenson. "We're really excited but we're definitely behind the game right now. The first race is only in a couple of months, so there's a lot of work to be done.
"But we are sure we will be ready for that first race."
Extreme E 2021 Calendar
3-4 April: Desert X Prix: AlUla, Saudi Arabia
29-30 May: Ocean X Prix: Lac Rose, Senegal
28-29 August: Arctic X Prix: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
23-24 October: Amazon X Prix: Para, Brazil
11-12 December 2021: Glacier X Prix: Tierra del Fuego, Argentina