JEN­SON’S DE­CI­SION KEY TO DRIVER MAR­KET

Brit close to nail­ing down ca­reer fu­ture

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Rob Lad­brook

HOW THE F1 SILLY SEA­SON IS UN­FOLD­ING

Jen­son But­ton will open talks with Mclaren about his F1 fu­ture next month, but ad­mits he’s us­ing this year’s sum­mer break to eval­u­ate whether or not he wants to con­tinue in grand prix rac­ing.

Amid in­ter­est from Wil­liams ( MN, Aug 10), But­ton’s fu­ture both at Mclaren and in F1 is up in the air. While Mclaren has Fer­nando Alonso un­der con­tract un­til the end of 2017, But­ton’s cur­rent deal ex­pires at the end of this sea­son and the Wok­ing firm has highly rated Bel­gian Stof­fel Van­doorne wait­ing in the wings.

Should But­ton leave Mclaren, Wil­liams is ex­pected to be his most likely des­ti­na­tion – re­turn­ing to the team he made his F1 de­but with in 2000 – af­ter team head Claire Wil­liams de­scribed run­ning But­ton as a “very at­trac­tive op­tion”.

How­ever, But­ton has also ad­mit­ted that he will be eval­u­at­ing whether con­tin­u­ing in F1 for an 18th year next sea­son is his best op­tion.

But­ton said: “I haven’t talked to the team [Mclaren] yet. In Septem­ber we are go­ing to sit down and have a chat and de­cide whether I want to be rac­ing in F1 or whether they want me rac­ing in F1.

“And if I’m not rac­ing in F1 next year, I don’t know where I’m go­ing to be. But I’ll have some fun. I’ve lived my whole life by a sched­ule and sud­denly [by leav­ing F1] I won’t be liv­ing by a sched­ule, which will be the first time in my 18 years as an adult that I haven’t, which is re­ally ex­cit­ing, when­ever that does hap­pen.”

Suc­cess weighs

But­ton con­ceded that he would use this year’s sum­mer break to think about his op­tions out­side of F1. The 36-year-old sug­gested that the grind of the world cham­pi­onship, which this year is the long­est ever at 21 races, was get­ting too much, es­pe­cially given the lack of re­sults the MclarenHonda re­birth has yielded so far.

But­ton – a 15-time grand prix win­ner – last stood on the podium when he fin­ished third for Mclaren in the 2014 Aus­tralian GP, but his last win came back in the 2012 Brazil­ian GP.

“For­mula 1 be­comes your life and you need a break, you need a rest,” But­ton added. “For me, I need the time to get away. I’ve done this job for so long – when

it’s ba­si­cally been my life – so you need time away from it to re­alise whether you need it in your life or not.

“I still en­joy driv­ing the car, it’s a lot of fun, but F1 is not about driv­ing the car and hav­ing fun, it’s about win­ning and get­ting on the podium, and I haven’t done ei­ther for a long time. So that part of the en­joy­ment isn’t there, but I still drive an F1 car for a liv­ing, which is pretty awe­some.

“I have made no de­ci­sions yet. It’s been too busy to. I’ll have a lot more time to think over the next few months, but noth­ing’s changed. It’s still the same sit­u­a­tion [with Mclaren]. We won’t talk un­til Septem­ber.”

What op­tions?

But­ton would have myr­iad op­tions out­side of F1, with his ex­pe­ri­ence mak­ing him hot prop­erty in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent rac­ing dis­ci­plines.

The FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship would be the most likely op­tion, with Porsche al­ready ru­moured to have ap­proached But­ton about join­ing its driver line-up in the past.

But­ton ad­mit­ted the thought of rac­ing sportscars ap­pealed, but added that he’d also love a shot at a ral­ly­cross cam­paign – a sport his late fa­ther, John But­ton, was highly suc­cess­ful in dur­ing his driv­ing ca­reer. John But­ton was run­ner-up in the 1976 Bri­tish Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship.

“In terms of rac­ing, I’d like to do other se­ries,” said But­ton. “I would love to be part of the WEC pro­gramme. I think I would re­ally en­joy the ca­ma­raderie and the team ef­fort that goes into build­ing a rac­ing car for a long dis­tance event. I don’t know what the pos­si­bil­i­ties would be in the fu­ture for that. There needs to be space for me to start with, be­cause that’s al­ways dif­fi­cult, but if there was space for me some­where and it’s some­thing I was ex­cited about I’d def­i­nitely do it. I’d also like to do ral­ly­cross in the fu­ture, some­thing my dad did. I’d def­i­nitely love to do that. There are so many op­tions, and not just in motorsport, but in other sports, in life.

“I still feel young and ex­cited about rac­ing, and the chal­lenge of rac­ing and com­pet­ing. So wher­ever that is, I want to be giv­ing it my all, and whether it’s in F1 next year or it’s some­where else in the world do­ing another form of motorsport, I want to be out there for my­self and for the team that I race for.”

Silly sea­son key?

While But­ton’s fu­ture holds much in­trigue, it is per­haps Ser­gio Perez who holds the key to a buoy­ant driver mar­ket.

The Force In­dia driver does have a con­tract for next sea­son along­side Nico Hulken­berg, but the Mex­i­can’s spon­sors may seek to find him a seat at a larger out­fit with more com­mer­cial clout. Re­nault is re­port­edly in­ter­ested in Perez to lead its 2017 line-up as it ramps up its F1 in­vest­ment plan to get back to the sharp end of the grid.

Perez, who sev­ered his Fer­rari young driver ties in or­der to join Mclaren for what would be a dis­as­trous sin­gle cam­paign in 2013, said he knows his next move is cru­cial to his ca­reer.

“It is very im­por­tant as I’m not that young any­more and I need to move up in the next cou­ple of years,” said the 26-year-old, who al­ready has two podium fin­ishes to his name this year.

“I’m tak­ing a lot of things into con­sid­er­a­tion that in the past I didn’t. It’s the way I’m ap­proach­ing my fu­ture. When I come back for Spa, ev­ery­thing should be done. There are driv­ers who don’t know if they will be here next year. It’s not my case for­tu­nately, I’m lucky that I’m in a very strong po­si­tion.”

But­ton could still have a fu­ture with Mclaren-honda

Perez (l) is in a strong po­si­tion

But­ton is happy with Mclaren, but wants to be fight­ing for wins again

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