Jenson Button could confirm F1 retirement at Japanese Grand Prix
Jenson Button is set to bring the curtain down on his world championship-winning career in Formula One.
The British driver could announce his retirement as soon as this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix – at his favourite track, in a country he loves and from where his wife comes.
Sources have told Sportsmail that he has reluctantly made up his mind to end his 16-year career in which he clinched the title in 2009 with Brawn and won 15 of his 278 races.
Former Formula One world champion Jenson Button, reportedly soon to announce his retirement. Picture/AP.
His negotiations with McLaren have not progressed despite spending a long time talking to Ron Dennis, the group chairman, on Sunday prior to the Singapore Grand Prix.
Moments later, Dennis spoke to Sky’s Martin Brundle on the grid but could give no assurance that Button, 35, would stay on.
It would take a massive change of heart now for Button to go back on his decision to leave Formula One, even though it is the only life he has known since he was picked from obscurity as a 19 year-old to drive for Williams.
His decision has been made easier by McLaren’s woeful performance this year – the result of a hopeless engine from the team’s new partners Honda. Another possible year of false dawns and certainly no guarantee of a marked enough improvement holds little allure.
Where Button will go now is not immediately clear. He has had talks with Porsche about joining the World Endurance Championship, though McLaren would first need to release him from his contract.
He is on a two-year-plus-one deal at the Woking-based team. He is completing his second year now, with the third year optional for both sides. However, McLaren can block him racing elsewhere if he decides to leave at this stage.
Another option is starting up his own rallycross team. His father John, his biggest supporter who died at the beginning of last year, was a prominent rallycross driver in the seventies, and Button recently spoke enthusiastically about the sport. He also recorded a rallycross feature with the BBC.
Part of his post-F1 life may include media work. He has been linked with a job at Chris Evans’ revamped Top Gear, though it is understood that any TV work would be no more than part of his portfolio.
Button, who is worth £71million according to the Sunday Times Rich List for 2015, raced for Williams, Benetton, Renault, BAR, Honda, Brawn and McLaren. He is the most experienced driver on the grid and popular with his fellow drivers for his tough but scrupulously fair racing style.
McLaren, who were keen to keep Button, will now hand the seat to either Dane Kevin Magnussen, who raced for them in 2014, or Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, the GP2 leader.