After months of increased speculation, McLaren have confirmed their driver line-up for 2017.
The Woking team has announced an “innovative three-driver strategy for the 2017 and 2018 Formula 1 seasons” which will see current reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne promoted to a race seat alongside Fernando Alonso.
While Jenson Button – who has raced with McLaren since 2010 – has signed a new two year deal with the team, he will take a backseat in 2017.
“As a race driver for our team these past seven seasons, he’s been superb, both on and off the track,” Ron Dennis said of Button. “And, as we’re seeing this season, he remains superb – not only fast and fit but also experienced and expert. He’ll start his 298th Grand Prix tomorrow; as such, he’s the most experienced driver on the grid. Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He’ll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.”
As expected, Alonso will continue as a race driver into 2017 and will be partnered by Vandoorne. Vandoorne deputised for the Spaniard at this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix and scored McLaren’s first point of the season with an impressive drive to tenth. He has been waiting in the wings for a couple of years and won the GP2 championship in 2015. This year has seen him race in Super Formula.
For Button, he does not view the news as a retirement. “I’m delighted that I’ll be staying on as a key member of the McLaren-Honda team,” he revealed. “I’m massively excited about my new role [and] specifically I’m looking forward to becoming even more deeply involved in the team’s efforts to bring about the success we’ve all been striving to deliver.”
“I love McLaren-Honda – I firmly believe it’s made up of the best bunch of people I’ve ever worked with and I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula 1 team,” he continued. It had been suggested that he might be on his way to Williams – with whom he made his Formula One debut back in 2000 – to replace the retiring Felipe Massa. “To be clear, I’m very definitely not retiring. I’m contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I’m sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point.”
Button has enjoyed eight victories with McLaren to date along with 18 further podiums. His best finish in the championship with the team was 2nd in 2011. 201