But­ton and Van­doorne face off over race seat

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

With But­ton’s cur­rent Mclaren con­tract due to ex­pire, he must prove he is a bet­ter prospect than highly rated rookie Van­doorne

Jen­son But­ton will have to fight for his For­mula 1 fu­ture as he en­ters the fi­nal months of his cur­rent Mclaren deal.

But­ton signed a one-year ex­ten­sion late last sea­son af­ter con­vinc­ing Mclaren boss Ron Den­nis that he still had the speed and, cru­cially, the hunger to con­tinue as a com­pet­i­tive F1 driver. But he will have strong com­pe­ti­tion for a 2017 race seat af­ter Mclaren’s re­serve driver Stof­fel Van­doorne made a stel­lar de­but at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Even be­fore this, But­ton was al­ready at risk of los­ing his place to the Bel­gian next sea­son, and Mclaren were al­ready weigh­ing up the 2009 world cham­pion’s ex­pe­ri­ence against Van­doorne’s prom­ise.

Van­doorne stood in for Fer­nando Alonso in Bahrain af­ter Alonso was ruled out of the race week­end by the FIA on med­i­cal grounds. The two-time cham­pion had suf­fered a cracked rib in his 180mph ac­ci­dent at the Aus­tralian Grand Prix, and FIA med­i­cal del­e­gate Jean-charles Pi­ette de­cided it was too big a risk to al­low him to drive again less than two weeks later.

Van­doorne flew overnight from Ja­pan, where he had been test­ing the car he races in Su­per For­mula, to ar­rive in time for first prac­tice in a car he had never driven be­fore. He built up steadily and ended up out­qual­i­fy­ing But­ton by 0.064secs. But­ton was forced to re­tire from the race with a power fail­ure, but Van­doorne put in an ac­com­plished per­for­mance and scored a point by fin­ish­ing tenth. This has un­der­lined his po­ten­tial and the com­monly held be­lief within the pad­dock that he is the most highly rated driver with­out a cur­rent full-time F1 seat.

Alonso’s cur­rent con­tract will run out at the end of the 2017 sea­son, and he has said he will not de­cide whether to con­tinue in F1 be­yond then un­til he has tried that year’s cars and the new Pirelli tyres that will be de­signed for them. Cur­rently, only But­ton and Van­doorne are in con­tention for Mclaren’s sec­ond seat.

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