BUTTON BYE BYE
BRIT SEALS GOLDEN HANDSHAKE FROM MCLAREN JENSON TO BECOME TEST DRIVER AND CONSULTANT HOT SHOT VANDOORNE JOINS ALONSO FOR 2017 RACING NEXT YEAR NOT A PRIORITY FOR HERO
Jenson Button will not race in Formula 1 next season after the Briton confirmed he will take a sabbatical from the sport.
Button has signed a new two-year deal with Mclaren-honda, but will step back from its race line-up to allow the team’s young Belgian protege Stoffel Vandoorne to partner Fernando Alonso.
Button, 36, will continue as the team’s reserve driver, and could rejoin the grid in 2018 as a full-time racer.
Button has options to compete elsewhere, but said: “I’m not thinking much beyond the rest of this season.”
Jenson Button is unsure of whether he will race at all next season after confirming his sabbatical from Formula 1 during last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
The 36-year-old Brit confirmed that he would step back from Mclaren-honda’s race driver lineup for the 2017 season to make way for rising star Stoffel Vandoorne to partner Fernando Alonso.
However, Button will remain a part of the Mclaren-honda team for the next two years after signing a fresh two-year contract to stay on as third driver, conducting test and development work on the new-generation 2017 cars. Button will not attend every grand prix of the season.
The deal means Button will be free to pursue other racing opportunities during 2017 should he wish to. Button has been linked with moves into the FIA World Endurance Championship and World Rallycross, but the Frome man said securing a race deal elsewhere wasn’t his priority.
“During the summer break I had an awesome time with friends and family, living on my own schedule, which is something I’ve not done for 17 years,” said Button. “I’ve lived and breathed F1 since I was 19. You go to every grand prix and everything else is either recovery or preparation for the next one. You are not just a racing driver when you drive in F1, this becomes your life and I definitely need a break from that in 2017.
“For a driver that’s been in the sport for so long and achieved what I’ve achieved, winning the world championship [in 2009], it really is a dream to be able to have that rest and still have the possibility of racing in the future. There is a possibility of me racing next year. But at the moment I’m not thinking about anything other than rest. There are many things I’d like to do, but this deal is exciting as it gives me a chance to live my life as an adult and see where it takes me in the future.”
Both Button and Mclaren-honda were keen to point out that Button’s withdrawal from its race line-up does not spell the 298-time grand prix starter’s retirement from the sport.
Within Button’s new deal there is a clause to give Mclaren-honda the option to call him back up to a full-time race seat for 2018, should both parties agree. For next season Button will concentrate on development and be on standby to race should either Vandoorne or Alonso be unable to.
Mclaren chief Ron Dennis said: “To avoid any confusion forget the word retirement – it’s not in the vocabulary and it isn’t what we’re