Jenson Button has denied F1 legend Niki Lauda’s claim at Suzuka that an argument about money put the cloud of retirement above the 2009 world champion’s head.
“I say to Ron (Dennis), ‘Pay him the money!'” former McLaren driver, triple world champion and now Mercedes team chairman Lauda said in Japan.
In truth, the ‘McLaren quit’ cloud is not only hanging above Button.
Fernando Alonso made a point of saying that his effort for 14th place in qualifying was “one of the best laps I’ve ever done at Suzuka”.
And in the race, he screamed on the radio after declaring very publicly at Honda’s home race that being easily passed on the straight was “embarrassing” as he is equipped with something akin to a “GP2 engine”.
“That’s a man trying to get fired,” surmised Britain’s Sky commentator Martin Brundle.
Still, Alonso rejected his manager Flavio Briatore’s claims that if McLaren-Honda does not eventually speed up, the former two-time champion will look elsewhere.
“Definitely I can tell you that I will not go anywhere else. I trust the project,” Alonso declared at Suzuka.
“McLaren and Honda, with the potential they both have, will win again.”
However, on Saturday at Suzuka, rumours that McLaren is out of patience with Honda as the motivation of the star drivers fades were swirling in the paddock.
McLaren said its supremo Ron Dennis was in bed in Tokyo on Saturday with a virus, but the Briton was back on the grid on Sunday, admitting he “told off” Lauda for his comments about Button.
Button also said claims he is arguing with Dennis about money is “not true”.
As for Lauda, “I never understand him anyway,” Button said. “It’s nice that he’s gone to the media and said that, but we didn’t really have a conversation.”
Spain’s AS newspaper reports that Honda may finally have acknowledged the need to change tack, going onto the market to recruit staff from outside of the Japanese marque.
And for 2016, Honda could add a second team to its F1 roster in the form of Toro Rosso, with AS reporting that the Japanese may be willing to supply the power unit to the second Red Bull team at “almost no cost”. (GMM)