Jenson Button has accused a ‘very drunk’ Richard Branson of once making his ex-girlfriend feel ‘uncomfortable’ after he ‘touched’ her inappropriately.
The Formula 1 driver said he was furious with the Virgin tycoon after he came back from the bathroom to apparently see Branson’s hand on his then girlfriend Jessica Michibata’s face.
Writing in his new autobiography Life To The Limit, Button explained that the incident took place at high-end Japanese restaurant Nobu before the 2009 Australian Grand Prix.
‘His Royal Highness Sir Richard Branson was arriving,’ Button wrote of the businessman approaching their table.
‘And he was very, very drunk. I had to make a toilet visit so I didn’t see what happened next, which was that he leaned over to Jessica and told her, “Stop staring at me.”
‘She pointed out that she wasn’t staring at him. “Stop staring at me,” he insisted. Although Jessica was a model she was quite shy, so this was making her feel uncomfortable.
He added: ‘Especially when Sir Richard followed up his blatant flirting by putting his hand on her face. “Look, I think you better leave,” warned my manager Richard, “or you’re going to get chinned when Jenson gets back.”’
In the book extract, published by the Daily Telegraph, Button said he would never have punched Branson, especially since his company Virgin was a sponsor of Brawn GP, the team Button then raced for, ‘but even so I was furious to return and find His Excellency with his hand on my girlfriend’s face’.
Button acknowledges that Branson had later apologised for his behaviour and claims Branson even gave up drinking for ‘months afterwards.’
Branson himself has also previously discussed the moment, writing in his own autobiography Finding My Virginity: ‘Jenson and his girlfriend were sitting at the next table, enjoying a far quieter evening as he had to race the next morning.
‘By contrast, through a mixture of tiredness, jetlag and drink, I soon found myself very, very inebriated. This wasn’t like me; I can’t remember ever getting that drunk before or since.’
‘I may have been slightly blurry-eyed, but was still able to realise how gorgeous (Michibata) was. Foolishly, I then told her as much.’