• McLaren

Father's death a 'stake through my heart' - Button

ESPN Staff
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Jenson Button and his father John celebrate his maiden win in 2006 © Sutton Images

Jenson Button has spoken candidly for the first time on the "horrific" and heart-breaking grief he suffered after his father's death earlier this year.

John Button, who was a popular member of the paddock and only missed one his son's 249 grand prix races, died of a suspected heart attack in January.

"It's a stake through my heart," Button told the Daily Mail. "It's been a pretty strange couple of months. I would say horrific. But in a certain way it has been nice too to hear all the good stories about my father, about how helpful he was to people, including things I didn't even know about. It's great seeing how many people he touched. Somebody wrote, 'don't think it will go back to normal, it won't, but don't be ashamed of having a joke and a laugh because it is what John would have wanted.'"

Aside from at the 2001 Brazilian Grand Prix, Button and his father, who he nicknamed 'Papa Smurf', which will appear on his helmet this year, engaged in a ritual of a pre-race hug. With his father absent once again Button admits Melbourne will be an emotionally charged event whatever the outcome.

"Like it or not, he was the last person to give me a cuddle and a hug before a race. He always made sure of it. If I make the podium [in Australia] it will be unbelievably emotional and if it is a bad race it will be emotional too because I'll remember how he would try to lift me in that situation. He would be bright. It was sometimes an odd feeling him trying to look for the positives when things hadn't gone so well."

Jenson Button's 2014 carries a tribute to the man he called 'Papa Smurf' © Twitter