Jenson Button has announced he has signed a two year contract with McLaren but he will not race next season. The Somerset born driver will take up and a ambassadorial role from 2017.
After months of speculation McLaren have this evening announced that the Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne will partner Fernando Alonso next season. Button will take a effectively a sabbatical from racing after agreeing a revised deal which includes the option of returning to the grid with the team in 2018.
Button and McLaren chairman Ron Dennis described as an “innovative” solution to the problem to keep all their options open for the future. Dennis said the offer “reflected the esteem” in which McLaren held Button, who has driven for the team since 2010.
Button said it was a “dream to have that rest and have the opportunity to race in 2018”. However, Button will remain the teams test and revere driver for next season.
Button will carry on working and attend a number of races to work with the team, maintain an F1 level of fitness and “remain current”, as he put it.
“There are many things I want to do that I haven’t been able to do because of the F1 schedule,” Button said. “When you drive in F1, it is your life, and I definitely need a break from that in 2017.
McLaren have been under pressure to resolve there line up as other teams were interested in signing there reserve driver Vandoorne. But Dennis warned teams to keep their hand off Vandoorne until they made a decision over there line up.
Dennis said: “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.”
Button had been linked to returning to Williams something which only 48 hours ago seemed very likely following Felipe Massa’s announcement on Thursday that he was retiring at the end of the season. However he confirmed: “I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula 1 team.”
Vandoorne said “I am always up for a challenge and I am very positive about it. In F1, you have to go up against the best and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Button is the most experienced driver driving for seventeen seasons and won his only title in 2009 with Brawn.