Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jenson Button extends contract with McLaren-Honda but will be designated as third driver from 2017 Formula 1 season onward

Jenson Button has finally quashed the rumors that the 2016 Formula 1 season will be his last following McLaren-Honda's announcement that he will continue on with the team as part of an "innovative three-driver strategy" for the 2017 and 2018 Formula 1 seasons.

"Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars," McLaren Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ron Dennis said of Button . "He'll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it. On behalf of all at McLaren-Honda, I want to say how thrilled we are that Jenson has extended his contractual relationship with us. Moreover, I’m absolutely certain that the depth of his experience and the currency of his expertise will give us an advantage over our opposition next season."

As one of the most senior drivers on the grid, coupled with McLaren-Honda's subpar performance this season, many have speculated that Button will be retiring from the sport at the end of the season. However, although Button has chosen to extend his contract for two more years and will continue to play "an active role as a key member of the team," the driver's line-up for the 2017 season will be bannered by two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and the team's current reserve driver, Stoffel Vandoorne.

In effect, Button and Vandoorne will be swapping roles from the 2017 onward, with Button relegated to being McLaren-Honda's reserve driver and taking on  the mantle of developing its race cars while Vandoorne will be helping Alonso recapture the team's former glory.

"I'm delighted that I’ll be staying on as a key member of the McLaren-Honda team," Button said in a statement. "In fact I'm massively excited about my new role, which has come about as a result of a number of in-depth chats with Ron. Specifically, I'm looking forward to becoming even more deeply involved in the team's efforts to bring about the success we've all been striving to deliver. To be clear, I'm very definitely not retiring. I'm contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I'm sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point."

Vandoorne won't be wet behind the ears when he takes to the track next season following his Formula 1 at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix when he replaced Alonso after the latter was declared unfit to race following his high-speed crash at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix.

"It's an enormous honor to become a McLaren-Honda race driver, and I promise to work as hard as any Formula 1 driver ever has before. I already know the team extremely well...and I've already raced the car once and tested it often. I have total confidence in the potential of the McLaren-Honda project, and I firmly believe that, racing alongside a brilliant and experienced driver, I'll be able to make a strong contribution to the team's future World Championship successes."

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