Motor racing-Button turning Japanese for Monaco GP
MONACO May 27 (Reuters) - Jenson Button is turning Japanese, at least in his helmet design, for Sunday's showcase Monaco Grand Prix.
The 2009 Formula One world champion showed off a new helmet at the McLaren team motorhome on Friday with the red rising sun on a white background on top and back and with his name written in Japanese and picked out in diamonds.
His initials are also in Japanese on the side, along with an Ichiban (number one) symbol.
The glitzy initiative is not new, with his McLaren team's sponsor Steinmetz promoting their diamonds in similar style in past years, but the Japanese touch is a new gesture for 31-year-old Button.
The Briton, who usually races with the colours of the British flag, has a Japanese model girlfriend and huge affection for the country stricken by a devastating earthquake and tsunami last March.
"It's going to be difficult going back to my other helmet after wearing that," he told Reuters. "I've always had the Union Jack, except for the Japanese Grand Prix when I changed it to the rising sun.
"It's a special occasion as I've got a lot of connections to Japan, and have had for many years and so I thought this would be a nice touch," he added.
"I'm sure it looks a bit strange having diamonds on your helmet, and using the helmet really to raise awareness, they don't really go together do they?
"I will have 'Help Japan' on the top of it, like I have on my helmet now...it's there to remind people that it's still not easy for the people over there."
Button raced for Honda between 2003 and 2008, taking his first grand prix win with them in Hungary in 2006. He is also a frequent visitor there and has been to Tokyo at least twice since the earthquake.
The Briton won in Monaco with Brawn GP, when he famously parked in the wrong place after taking the chequered flag and ran jubilantly some 200 metres down the pit straight to the podium with his helmet still on.
"This is the first time they (the Japanese) will know I'm doing it for them, but I have the connection with (girlfriend) Jessica (Michibata), the connection of being with Honda for so many years," he said.
"But the main thing is I love Japan and they are going through a very difficult time at the moment. It's to show there are a lot of people thinking of them."
Team mate Lewis Hamilton will also race with his name picked out in diamonds on his yellow helmet.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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