Jenson Button said he was shocked by the public reaction over revelations Richard Branson touched his ex-girlfriend’s face and made her feel uncomfortable.
Speaking today, the Formula 1 ace said he felt for Sir Richard after his comments stirred up a media storm.
He said: ‘It was a long time ago, Richard apologised afterwards and actually said he didn’t drink for six months after.’
Appearing on This Morning today to promote his new book, the race champion said he ‘didn’t expect’ the story or his comments about Branson to become front page of the Daily Mirror.
Host Philip Schofield joked: ‘It’s great for book sales!’ Button replied: ‘Yeah, I do feel for him a little bit.’
Jenson Button said he was shocked at the public reaction over revelations Richard Branson touched his girlfriend’s face and made her feel uncomfortable
Button claimed an intoxicated Branson put his hands on model Jessica Michibata’s face, making her ‘uncomfortable’ after he approached them at celebrity haunt Nobu in 2009.
In his autobiography Life to the Limit, Mr Button, 37, writes the inebriated Branson came over to their table and sat down uninvited.
He alleges that the Virgin CEO then started flirting with his then-girlfriend, Japanese model Jessica Michibata, by accusing her of staring at him.
‘Although Jessica was a model she was quite shy, so this was making her feel uncomfortable,’ an extract published in The Telegraph reported.
‘Especially when Sir Richard followed up his blatant flirting by putting his hand on her face.’
Mr Button writes that he was in the bathroom when this took place, and said he returned to find Sir Richard with his hands on Ms Michibata’s face.
Revelations: Jenson Button claims that an intoxicated Richard Branson interrupted a dinner in 2009, and flirted with his then-girlfriend Jessica Michibata
Hitting back: Mr Button says he returned to the dinner table to find Sir Richard with his hands on Ms Michibata’s face, and told him to back off
‘”Hold on,” I said, “that’s enough. That’s well out of order.” But he was so hammered that he simply didn’t understand what the problem was.’
Mr Button adds that Sir Richard later apologised to the then-couple, and that he ‘gave up drinking for months afterwards.’
Sir Richard addresses the incident himself in his own autobiography Finding My Virginity, admitting that the incident led to him giving up alcohol for six month.
He writes: ‘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.’
Pleasantries: Richard Branson pictured kissing model Jessica Michibata on the cheek in the F1 paddock during the Australian Grand Prix in 2010
The incident is believed to have taken place at Nobu’s Melbourne restaurant (pictured)
He admits to walking over to the couple’s table and telling Ms Michabata ‘how gorgeous she was’.
‘Jenson understandable took offence and I decided to retreat quickly from the table (thankfully, we smoothed it out).’
Mr Button and Ms Michibata, 32, first met in 2008 in a hotel bar in Tokyo and began dating eight months later.
They split for a short time in 2011 before the McLaren reserve driver proposed on Valentine’s Day 2014, with a ring worth £250,000.
They tied the knot in a lavish Hawaiian ceremony in December 2014 called time on their relationship just one year later but say they remain on good terms.
Mr Button his now dating former playboy model Brittny Ward, 25, and Ms Michibata is due to give birth to her first child next month.