Jenson Button expected to announce F1 retirement
Button has been on the grid every season since his debut with Williams in 2000. But as his current team McLaren has fallen off pace, so has Button – particularly as both struggle to work out the kinks in the new Honda engine package. And unlike Benjamin Button, he's not getting any younger.
With the benefit of his own considerable experience, Button won out over his previous teammate Kevin Magnussen to keep his race seat after Fernando Alonso arrived in Woking. But while he's enjoyed Honda's support, team principal Ron Dennis has reportedly turned sour on Button's staying with the team, preferring to promote a younger driver in Button's place. Rather than leave it up to the team to decide, however – or seeking a drive with another team – word has it that Jenson is preparing to go out on his own terms, and is set to announce his retirement at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
Button's departure would leave two questions open: For one, what will he do next? And for another, who will McLaren hire to fill his racing shoes? For Jenson's part, he could end up combining a drive at Le Mans with a television career. He's been linked to talks with Porsche, where other experienced F1 drivers like Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg have found success. But sources also point towards a potential Rallycross drive, and we wouldn't be terribly surprised to see him compete in GT racing for McLaren or the Super GT series for Honda. Affable and skilled in working behind the camera, Button has also been linked with potentially joining Chris Evans on the new cast of a rebooted Top Gear.
As for McLaren, it has two emerging talents in reserve. One is the aforementioned Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, who raced for the team last season but was told to wait in the wings. After winning the pivotal Formula Renault 3.5 title in 2013, Magnussen impressed with a second-place finish on his F1 race debut in Australia last year. He could, however, accept a race seat with another team for next season rather than wait (as Button had to) for McLaren to make its decision.
The other leading option is Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, one of the team's test drivers. Vandoorne has been dominating in the feeder series, winning titles in Formula 4 and Formula Renault 2.0, coming second in the Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2 standings, and currently holding a commanding lead in the GP2 season with just a few races left to go. Whoever McLaren might choose to take Button's place, however, will clearly have his work cut out for him.
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