McLaren have finally announced who will be driving for them in 2015. The signing of Fernando Alonso will come as no surprise but his team-mate has been the subject of speculation for a number of months.
Jenson Button will remain with McLaren for 2015 – his sixth season with the team – with 2014 race driver Kevin Magnussen becoming test and reserve driver.
“I am absolutely delighted to be on the threshold of leading McLaren-Honda to a new era of partnership,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Ron Dennis said. “I speak on behalf of all at McLaren when I say that. I am equally confident that our colleagues at Honda share that determination and passion to win. As regards drivers, McLaren’s policy has always been to assemble the strongest line-up possible, and in Fernando and Jenson I firmly believe that is exactly what we have. We signed Fernando a little while ago, but we decided not to announce the fact until we had also re-signed Jenson as his team-mate. For many reasons our negotiations with Jenson took quite a long time, but, now that they have been concluded, we are confident that our collaboration with him will continue to thrive in the future every bit as well as it has in the past. Make no mistake about it, Jenson is 100% committed to McLaren-Honda, to Formula 1 and to winning.”
Button is currently the most experienced driver on the grid with 266 Grand Prix starts under his belt. This includes 15 victories and 50 podiums, of which eight wins were for McLaren and 26 podiums. He won the world championship with Brawn GP back in 2009 before joining McLaren in 2010. He has been somewhat in limbo over the past couple of months, not sure if he had a future in Formula One but has revealed he is excited about what lies ahead with McLaren-Honda, having spent most of his early F1 career driving for Honda (who then became Brawn). “I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together,” Button said. “I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.” While Alonso has made no secret of his desire to join McLaren-Honda due to his idol Ayrton Senna’s association with the team, it was Alain Prost who inspired Button. “I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren-Honda team-mate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy,” the 2009 world champion admitted. “The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since. Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go!”
“Looking forward, I know the Honda guys well, having driven Formula 1 cars powered by their engines from 2003 to 2008,” he continued. “I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and promise to give 100% to make their partnership with McLaren a success. Last but far from least, I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate. I am sure we will work extremely well together.”
For Alonso, the move to McLaren-Honda is a dream come true. “I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference,” the Spaniard revealed. “I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1 – McLaren-Honda – the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship. I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me.”
Alonso also revealed that McLaren-Honda had approached him more than a year ago. “[They] asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership,” he explained. “McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence ahead.”
Joining Alonso and Button will be 2014 driver Magnussen, to whom Button, Dennis and Honda’s Senior Managing Officer Yasuhisa Arai paid tribute to. “Kevin has done a great job this season and will continue to be an integral part of our team,” Dennis said. “He will be our test, reserve and third driver, and remains an excellent prospect for the future.” Button expressed his gladness that Magnussen – “a very quick driver and a really nice guy” – would be remaining with the team, while Arai commented on the young Dane’s remarkable growth over last season.
“I can safely say that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team,” Dennis concluded as the team look ahead to 2015 and the start of a new era, laying the foundations for future domination. Back in the late 80s and early 90s – between 1988 and 1992 McLaren-Honda won eight world championships, 44 grands prix, and took 53 pole positions and set 30 fastest laps, all in just 80 grands prix. The team will be striving to return to winning ways. As Alonso stated: “we have time, we have hopes and we have the necessary resources. Let the legend return: that is our challenge!”