Formula 1 driver Jenson Button's father has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 70.
John Button, who has been a strong guiding force behind his son's career which includes winning the 2009 world championship, was found dead in his home on the French Riviera by a friend on Sunday.
A statement released by the driver's agent read: "It is with great sadness and regret that I can confirm John Button passed away at his home in the South of France on Sunday. Whilst we await confirmation, initial signs would indicate a suspected heart attack. A close friend who was visiting John on Sunday was the first to discover the tragic news.
"John's children Jenson, Natasha, Samantha and Tanya and the rest of the family are clearly devastated and ask for their privacy to be respected during this extremely difficult time."
McLaren team principal issued a statement expressing his sadness at the passing of someone who he described as "not only a great dad, but also a lovely man".
“I want to say how very sad I was to hear the news of John's passing," said Whitmarsh, who signed Button to the Woking outfit as reigning world champion following his departure from Brawn F1 at the end of 2009.
“In my long Formula One career, I've encountered many drivers' fathers, but I think it's safe to say that John was perhaps more devoted to his son than any of them. Ever since Jenson was a boy, racing go-karts, his dad has been at his side, helping him, supporting him, finding the money for the next race.
“As Jenson grew older, and continued to win in cars, still John was always there, his most steadfast helper and supporter.
“And, even now, in recent years, during which Jenson has become the consummate Formula 1 world champion that he is, the most experienced driver on the Formula 1 grid in fact, still John has been ever-present, as loyal and as loving as ever, a benign and popular member of Jenson's small and intimate entourage.
“This coming season will be Jenson's fifth as a McLaren driver. I believe John has attended every grand prix over the past four seasons, and over that period he's become a unique and, I think it's fair to say, irreplaceable part of the McLaren 'family'.
“He was not only a great dad, but also a lovely man, and he'll be enormously missed by Jenson, of course, by all at McLaren, and indeed by the Formula 1 community at large.
“I'm sure that everyone at McLaren, and indeed everyone in Formula One, will join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to Jenson, to the Button family, and to their many friends.”
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