Aviation

Another reason to stopover in Singapore

Hannah Edensor

British Airways has officially unveiled its new lounge at Changi Airport today in a ceremony attended by the airline’s partners, customers, media and VIP guest of honour Lee Seow Hiang, CEO of Changi Airport.

Prior to the official opening, Formula 1 superstar Jenson Button was one of the first customers to enjoy the airline’s new state-of-the-art facility as he travelled through Changi Airport.

Looking dapper in a black evening suit, Button took part in a photo shoot in the new lounge for British Airways’ High Life magazine, as well as answering a few questions about his high flying life, love of Singapore and travel bucket list.

We’ve got the goods:

Jenson Button at British Airways' new Singaore lounge LR 2

…And now his answers.

You fly all over the world as an F1 driver – what’s your favourite country to visit and why? 

I’ve been so lucky to visit some incredible places as part of my job for both the actual races as well as sponsor and PR commitments. I’ve always had a massive soft spot for Japan, even before I met my wife!

I have always adored the food and some of my favourite restaurants in the world are in Tokyo – one being a fantastic place called Robataya in Roppongi – they cook everything in front of you, the restaurant only seats around 25 people and there’s only 2 chefs amazing theatre as well as food.

Japan is such a vast country with some incredible and contrasting areas. You’ve got the brilliant hustle and bustle of Tokyo and then you’ve got the hot springs in Hakone which are then both totally different to Suzuka where the GP takes place – the one thing that remains consistent however is how nice and hospitable the Japanese people are, the support in Japan at the race is incredible and always one of my favourite places to visit.

 

Why do you think Singapore is such a popular tourist destination? 

I pretty much only see Singapore in the dark at night but what I do see is stunning. It has some incredible hotels and restaurants and the buzz around the city over a Grand Prix weekend is electric.

Friends and family who have been to the race say it’s one of their favourite places to visits and I can totally see why. It’s a place I would love to explore more as it’s somewhere that seems to have everything.

What’s your favourite local dish that you always have when you come to Singapore? 

I love dim sum and there are some incredible dim sum stalls around where we stay near the circuit in Marina Bay – theres one type which is a bbq pork bun, incredible!

You must be an expert at coping with jetlag…what are your top tips for travelling? 

Jetlag is a tough one and definitely an occupational hazard. One trick I’ve learned over the years is to base your meals around the time zone of your destination, so if when you get on the plane it’s the middle of the night where you are but it’s breakfast time where you’re going – try and eat as for me personally if you get that right it makes it easier to sleep/wake up.

I also like to try and do some sort of exercise as soon as possible once off long haul flight.

 

What makes the British Grand Prix so special and why should race fans from around the world make the trip to the UK to see it? 

Silverstone for me is the most special race on the calendar. Year in year out, no matter what, the fans turn out come rain or shine to show their support and I know every British driver will have felt the same over the years when they turn up and see the sheer scale of the support, truly very special and unlike any other race out there.

For any F1 fans around the world it’s absolutely worth the trip,  you might not get a tan but you will have an incredible weekend!

You spend a lot of time flying – what’s your funniest memory from your time in the skies? 

I had a funny encounter not that long ago when a lady who was on my flight came up to me a few hours in and said that her sons were fans and would I mind signing something for them.

Now I had noticed the lady in question had an American accent so was surprised as, although it’s growing, F1 isnt’s as big in America as other countries. As I was signing she followed up with “they’ll be so excited, they’ve got all your albums, whens’ the next one due out?”

It’s not the first time I’ve been mistaken for the lead singer of Coldplay and when I’d finally convinced her I wasn’t Chris Martin she still looked confused and asked “if you’re not Chris Martin who are you as you seemed happy to give me your autograph?!”

I explained that I’m an F1 driver and she said “well I don’t think my sons watch it but sign them anyway” – brilliant!

Jenson Button at British Airways' new Singaore lounge LR 1

 

If you were to explore Europe by road, what are the best countries to take in for incredible views? 

I’ve driven a lot of Europe and one route that I love to drive is the South of France to Italy and regularly drive to the race in Monza. Also driving through France to the wine region is a stunning drive. Recently Jessica and I spent some time there and both absolutely loved it.

If you head into Italy from Monaco, you have the Stelvio Pass, which is one of the most famous roads in the world. I also like driving in Hakone, Japan, where the hot springs are. I drive there a lot when I’m in Japan. This past winter when I was in Hawaii, I drove up Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world when measured from below sea level.

We were driving above the clouds, which was pretty awesome, so if you ever get a chance on the Big Island, you should give that a go.

 

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re at Changi Airport? 

Well obviously relax in the new BA lounge!

What’s been your most memorable holiday to date? What made it so unforgettable?

Once the 2009 season was over to celebrate winning the championship some friends and I went on a great trip to Japan and then to China as I was competing in the Race of Champions event. That was a great trip as I was just able to relax and have fun after an incredible year.

We’d left the last race in Abu Dhabi and flown to Japan where we spent a few days and then landed in China all in shorts and t-shirts not realising it was about 2 degrees! We had to run to a mall and all buy hats and gloves!

Which is your all-time favourite hotel in the world (or the best place that you’ve stayed)? What made it so special?

The Conrad Singapore because it [the Singapore Grand Prix] is such an unusual race for us. Everything is done sort of back-to-front, staying on European time even though we’re in Singapore.

I have dinner at two o’clock in the morning and breakfast at midday [both on Singapore time]. So the staff have been fantastic over the years looking after at us at unusual times. They’ve really made us very relaxed just before getting into the circuit.

 

What’s the one gadget that you can’t travel without? Why?

I do love my iPad – great when you’ve got a show that you love and you can relax into your seat and start a new episode. Makes travelling a little easier!

Which destination is at the top of your bucket list to visit it next? 

I’ve never been to the Maldives but have always wanted to visit, just to experience something very different. It’s been something I tried to save for a special occasion.

I’ve got my PADI certification as well, and it looks like a fun place to go diving. I would probably stay on a very small island.

What are your top five destinations of all time?

  1. Tokyo
  2. Hawaii
  3. London
  4. Hakone
  5. Silverstone

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