LONDON, Jan 13, 2014 (AFP) - The father of Formula One driver Jenson Button, who helped launch his son on the path to becoming a world champion, has died aged 70, it was announced Monday.
John Button, who oversaw his son's rise from kart drive to 2009 Formula One world champion, was found dead at his home in the south of France on Sunday following a suspected heart attack.
A statement released by Jenson Button's agent said: "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."
"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."
John Button, a familiar figure at Grand Prix circuits around the world, played a key role in Jenson's junior racing career.
He coached his son and helped to fund his rise through the ranks out of the proceeds of a kart engine preparation business that also supplied Anthony Hamilton, the father of 2008 world champion Lewis.
After winning the world title with the Brawn GP team five years ago, the now 33-year-old Jenson Button joined McLaren, for whom he has raced since 2010.
McLaren Mercedes principal Martin Whitmarsh said no father could have been more supportive of his son's racing career than John Button, himself a former rallycross driver.
"In my long Formula 1 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," Whitmarsh said.
"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 1, will join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to Jenson, to the Button family, and to their many friends."