In an interview with Sky Sports F1 today, McLaren driver Jenson Button has stated that he rules out retiring from Formula One at the end of the season, despite his McLaren contract expiring in a few months time. He also stated that he “needs to be in a car that is competitive” at this late stage of his career within the sport.
Having begun his F1 career back in 2000, Button is now the most experienced and second-oldest driver on the grid and after celebrating his 250th race at last month’s Bahrain GP. Even though Button is out-of-contract at McLaren (he joined the team in 2010) at the end of the year has prompted speculation that his future in F1 could be in doubt, particularly since the death of his father and mentor John in January.
However, McLaren are currently in their longest point-less run for five years and toiling in sixth place in the Constructors’ Championship, but Button insists such disappointments only increase his desire to continue in the sport and achieve further success. In his interview with Sky Sports F1, Button stated the following:-
‘I definitely want to be in F1. This sort of season does not make you want to retire. If you do retire, you want to retire on a high and if you have the possibility to do that, then you continue racing to get that high. The problem then is when you do that you don’t want to stop racing either, so you could be racing for many years.
‘But no, I don’t feel I want to retire at the end of this year. I am happy about my future, and think it is quite exciting.’
Even though Button may not have the performance in his McLaren at the moment, it is clear for all to see that the hunger, the motivation, passion and desire to be competitive is still burning strong within him. As Button points out, I feel that even though racing is within the blood, I feel that he knows when it is the right time to retire from the sport and I feel that he still has a lot to give to the sport despite him being in the latter stages of his career within the sport.
Since news of the high-profile remarriage was announced last year, Button has been thought likely to stay on at Woking owing to his past long-time links with the Japanese carmarker. Button drove for the BAR/Honda team between 2003 and 2008, has made clear he hopes McLaren is the place where he wins races again, but admits his age creates a dilemma over that decision.
In his interview with Sky Sports F1, Button added the following when asked his thoughts on the matter:-
‘The biggest problem is I need to be in a car that is competitive, that gives you confidence as a driver as well. I hope that’s here. It is a difficult decision for a driver in my position, with so much experience and so much to give. I’m at the point in my career where I’ve only a few years left where I will be in F1, and I want to be in a position where I can win races or be close to winning races.
‘I would like to think I’ll be here and the team will be competitive towards the end of this season, which will then give me good reason to want to be here.’
You cannot really argue with what Button has stated in his interview today. Of course every driver on the grid would like to be in a position where they can challenge consistently and regularly for race wins. Currently, McLaren are not in the position to challenge for races wins, but I have a strong feeling that 2015 could the year that McLaren could once again start to win races once more.
I will argue that McLaren I feel will continue to try and develop this year’s car as much as they possibly can while getting a head start on the new Honda power unit for next year. With all the success and history between McLaren and Honda, both parties will want to ensure that they start the 2015 with a reminder of why they were successful in Formula One within the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
I do feel in my opinion that Button should stay with the McLaren team in 2015. Button is one of the most experienced drivers on the grid and that experience will be crucial as McLaren and Honda reunite next season. Not only is Button one of the fastest drivers on the grid when he is on form, but he has experience of winning races and has a title under his belt and that counts for something.
As many pundits and fans will argue, the experience that Button has with the engine manufacturer will be crucial in order for the partnership to be successful. It would not be stupid for McLaren not to capitalise on the experience that Button has gained with Honda during the years he drove for the BAR and Honda team and this could provide them with a much needed advantage while looking towards the 2015 season.
Speaking to the official F1 website last month, McLaren’s returning CEO Ron Dennis said that, at present, there was no reason to replace Button. Dennis stated the following:-
‘Anything is possible, but Jenson is doing a great job. He is quick and he is dedicated so there is no reason not to stay with Jenson from any perspective. But we still have a whole season to go.’
Even though it would appear that Dennis is happy with the performance of Button so far this year, anything can happen within Formula One. But at the moment, it would seem that McLaren find no reason to terminate the contract of Button at the end of the season, unless Button himself decides to walk away from the sport which I do not see happening as of yet.
Under the leadership of Dennis, McLaren are undergoing a restructure in order to get back to competitive ways as quickly as possible. With the team having ousted Sergio Perez after just one season to promote young Dane Kevin Magnussen to the seat alongside Button, McLaren have a second high-rated youngster on their books in Stoffel Vandoorne, who is signed to the management stable Button co-owns, with the Belgian winning on his GP2 debut last month.
There is also speculation around the paddock that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso continues to be linked with a shock return to McLaren, despite being under contract to Ferrari until the end of 2016 that still will not go away. But in my view, I do not see Alonso returning to McLaren and I would be very surprised if he did return to the team in 2015 or even 2016.
But at the moment, it would seem that both McLaren and Button himself would like their partnership to continue for as long as possible and long may it continue. As we would expect, the start of the “silly season” within Formula One has begun and will continue as the season develops.
There might be speculation regarding the future of Button, but until an announcement has been made from either Button himself or McLaren, it looks likely that Button could be retained for the 2015 season in order to use the experience he has with Honda. The partnership of McLaren and Button I feel still has a lot of potential to give to the sport and if they continue, the future does indeed look bright for both parties.
Do I think that Button will be retained by McLaren for 2015? Absolutely and with the return of Honda, you could say both parties could be once again fighting for race wins or even the title in 2015? We can wait and see what happens but I really hope that Button’s future within the sport is confirmed sooner rather than later.