Following the news of Massa’s retirement from F1 at the beginning of the weekend, Mclarens Jenson Button has today announced that he will step down from the race seat for 2017 allowing Stoffel Vandoorne to partner Fernando Alonso for the season.
Rumours in the paddock have been all about Button since it was suggested that the Englishman had waited too long to work an agreement with the Williams team in his attempt to find a competitive drive for 2017, and with silly season in full swing the Woking outfit was keen to offer Vandoorne a race seat.
This deal for Button could see him returning to a race seat in 2018 as he is staying as an ambassador to Mclaren assisting with the development of the car throughout next season. Button has been quoted as saying he had already made the decision during the Summer break that he wanted a sabbatical from racing for a year.
Ron Dennis has described the deal as an innovative solution to their Driver problem that keeps all their options open for the future. Button has driven for the team since 2010 and is held is high esteem and added that it was a dream to have a rest and an opportunity to return in 2018. Along with his new ambassador duties Button will be the reserve driver for 2017 and will perform simulator and testing programmes.
Button has said that “There are many things I want to do that I haven’t been able to do because of the F1 schedule,” continuing with “When you drive in F1, it is your life, and I definitely need a break from that in 2017.
“I have an option on me to race for McLaren-Honda in 2018, which is pretty awesome. ”
“This is something that really works for me, and I am so, so happy we have come to this agreement and I will do everything I can to make sure this team is as good as it possibly can be.”
Ron Dennis quoted: “To avoid any confusion, forget the word retirement. Jenson is one of the team’s drivers for the next two years. It is a very practical and logical solution that Jenson get his mind balanced and re-established and relaxed and then look at the future.”
He added that Button had turned down offers from other teams in favour of staying with McLaren in his new role.
Lewis Hamilton has led the tributes from fellow Drivers hailing Jenson an extraordinary individual and saying that Button’s impact on Formula 1 has lived with him all his career, his earliest memories was watching him at a Formula 1 weekend with his Dad seeing Jenson do the things a young Lewis would dream of. Going on to say there seems to be a changing of the guard in F1 quoting a quip from the drivers briefing , “Max (Verstappen) was sitting next to me, along with Jenson and Filipe (Massa), and Jenson told Max” – “you were just a one year old when I first got into F1″ – ” That was kind of crazy”
He added that Jenson was a Great British Champion and still young, fit and healthy, wishing him the best for the future and hoping that he will see him on the grid again”
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