JENSON’S DECISION KEY TO DRIVER MARKET
Brit close to nailing down career future
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.”
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.”
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