Formula One driver Jenson Button has claimed he was forced to confront Sir Richard Branson after the Virgin boss touched his girlfriend’s face while drunk at a restaurant.
The 2009 world champion said the incident with his then girlfriend Jessica Michibata took place at an expensive Japanese restaurant called Nobu during the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.
Writing in his new book Life to the Limit, the British racing driver said he was eating dinner with Michibata, a Japanese fashion model, Richard Goddard, his manager, his father, and a few others when Sir Richard approached their table and sat down.
Button said he excused himself to go to toilet and while he was away Sir Richard who was “very, very drunk” leaned over to Michibata and said “stop staring at me”.
Despite Michibata, who married Button in 2014 but separated from him a year later, drawing attention to the fact she was not in fact staring at him Sir Richard reportedly continued to insist she was.
According to Button, Sir Richard proceeded to put his hand on her face and his manager was then forced to interrupt.
“Look, I think you better leave or you’re going to get chinned when Jenson gets back,” warned Mr Goddard.
Button accused Sir Richard of “blatant flirting” for touching her face and said the incident made her feel “uncomfortable” and left him “furious” when he returned from the toilet.
According to Button, he said to Sir Richard “Hold on that’s enough. That’s well out of order” but the mogul was “so hammered” that he could not understand what the problem was.
“The next thing we knew he’d stood up from our table and tottered over to a party of ten, where one of the diners, presumably unaware of quite how drunk he was, handed him a baby, hoping to get a picture of him holding it,” wrote Button in the book extract published by The Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
“Sir Richard not only proceeded to pick up the baby, but stagger around the restaurant with it, gradually getting more and more careless, until at last he returned the child and left.”
He continued: “At our table we were looking at each other incredulously. ‘I can’t believe this,’ said Richard. ‘We’ve got to work with that k*** for the rest of the year.’”
Button said Sir Richard apologised to him for the nights incident and told him he gave up drinking alcohol for months afterwards.
A representative for Sir Richard did not immediately respond to request for comment.