Jenson Button says that the involvement of several prominent motorsport stars in Extreme E shows that they are “trying to make a difference and trying to help change happen”.
Button will serve as both a team owner and driver in the new all-electric series, as fellow Formula 1 Champions Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg also don the team ownership hat, and he thinks his former F1 rivals’ profiles will not only boost the series, but help its environmental awareness message too.
Hamilton has documented on social media his passion for the planet, and looking after it with lifestyle changes such as going vegan, while Rosberg has spent his post-F1 career investing in ‘green’ technologies and co-founded the Greentech Festival that caters for producers and consumers in a wide array of industries with similar interests.
“First of all I think it’s great that we’ve got Rosberg and Hamilton, they both have a team. I think it’s good because it brings a lot of interest to the category,” Button told DirtFish.
“The whole [thing] behind the category is we’re going to five places around the world that have been really affected by climate change so it’s about bringing awareness, especially with Lewis’ following, I think that’s very helpful for the category.
“I think it’s great, I’m really looking forward to going up against them, or their teams.
“They do have some very, very good driver pairings and they also have a good team of people behind the teams themselves so they have a lot of experience so we’re definitely on the back foot, but it’s going to be learning things for the first part of the season but hopefully after a couple of races we can be up there with them.”
Following fellow Alejandro Agag creation Formula E, XE will be the second prominent global motorsport series to exclusively utilize electric vehicles, and Button feels that the caliber of drivers involved – aside from the three prominent F1 names – shows just how legitimate an electric future for motorsport can be.
“Because of the direction with electric vehicles, with climate change, I think that’s a big push really, trying to get onboard with that and trying to make a difference and trying to help change happen,” Button added.
“Electric vehicles are obviously the future, but we also need to bring awareness to these areas that are in bad shape right now, that don’t just affect those areas but affects the whole world and will do moving forwards.
“I think that’s some of the reason why we want to get involved and we see a big future in the championship and to have Sébastien Loeb, multiple World Rally Champion; to have three rallycross world champions; Carlos Sainz, WRC Champion, Dakar champion; Kyle LeDuc off-road champion in America; Sara Price, she’s won the SCORE championship in off-road; Jamie Chadwick, she’s won W Series; I mean, there’s so many champions racing, I don’t think there’s been a category like it.”
Button had his first test of the series’ Odyssey 21 car in Wales earlier this week.
After getting some off-road training at DirtFish rally school last week, he spent two days behind the wheel of XE’s all-electric racer at Walters Arena – an old mine that has been turned into an off-road testing venue that has previously featured as part of a timed section on Rally GB.