For two years, Jenson Button and Mark Webber have been fierce rivals for the F1 world title. But reverse back to early 2001 and you’ll find awkward-charming photos of two boys doing fitness training on a volcanic island.
The location is Lanzarote, the easternmost island of the Canaries, an archipelago off the coast of Africa between Morocco and Western Sahara home to massive, unstable volcanoes and Spanish grandmothers. This is where Europeans go when they’re fed
up with the chilly downside of continental climate and this is also where Formula One drivers have their winter training sessions in January before the next season kicks off in March.
These remarkable historical photos were taken on January 4, 2001, during a very different era of Formula One. Jenson Button had just completed his first full season, driving alongside Ralf Schumacher for Williams. A teenage sensation and already with a race seat at the then-ridiculous age of 20, he would be dogged by many years of subpar cars before finally winning his first Grand Prix in 2006 and clinching the world title in 2009.
Although four years Button’s senior, Mark Webber was a full year away from his Grand Prix debut, but he would join Button at Benetton for 2001 as a test driver. He
was already notorious for being part of the unfortunate nonet of drivers assigned to drive the aerodynamic failure known as the Mercedes-Benz CLR at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. Before the cars were withdrawn, four hours into the race, they had performed backflips on the Mulsanne Straight three times—and poor Mark Webber was behind the wheel for the first two occasions. Incredibly, Webber would return to his balletic ways 11 years later, at this year’s European Grand Prix.
All their racing success aside, had they failed completely at driving single-seaters for a living, they could’ve carried off starring in an Australian teen surf bum sitcom with ease. Along these lines:
Photo Credit: Mark Thompson /Allsport, Frederic Le Floc’h (Webber at Le Mans)