2009 Formula One world championship Jenson Button has announced that he will stand down from F1 driving for the 2017 season, although stopped short of announcing his retirement at the age of 36.
The Brit will then become an ambassador for McLaren for one year. He will be on stand-by to drive next year or the following year such is the flexibility of his new arrangement.
Ron Dennis (Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Technology Group) explained:
“McLaren-Honda’s race driver line-up next season will be Fernando and Stoffel – a perfectly balanced mix of proven brilliance and immense potential.
“But, before I speak on the subject of either of them, I want to talk about Jenson. As a race driver for our team these past seven seasons, he’s been superb, both on and off the track. 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.
“On behalf of all at McLaren-Honda, I want to say how thrilled we are that Jenson has extended his contractual relationship with us. Moreover, I’m absolutely certain that the depth of his experience and the currency of his expertise will give us an advantage over our opposition next season.
“As for Fernando, 2017 will be his third year as a McLaren-Honda race driver, and I need hardly reaffirm his credentials here. So let me simply restate my belief that he’s one of the finest and fastest Grand Prix drivers I’ve ever seen, and we’re very proud to have him in the team.
“He’s been both diligent and patient over the past two seasons, and he shares with all of us at McLaren-Honda the confidence that 2017 will be the season in which our partnership begins to deliver strong results.
“Stoffel has been a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since February 2013, and was appointed our Test and Development Driver 11 months later.
“Over the past two-and-a-half years he’s made a very valuable contribution in that role, learning from his two World Champion team-mates as well as from our many world-class engineers, and, having been runner-up in World Series by Renault in 2013 and the run-away winner of the GP2 Championship last year, he’s now completed with distinction a meticulously designed apprenticeship.
“He’s consequently now ready to race in Formula 1, as his fine Grand Prix debut in Bahrain this year proved.”
Yusuke Hasegawa (Head of Formula 1 Project and Executive Chief Engineer, Honda R&D Co Ltd) said:
“First and foremost, I’m delighted that Jenson will continue to play a big role in our development process. He has been a part of the Honda family for eight years now, and the last two years have been especially challenging, but I’m thankful that, through his experience and quality as a driver, the team has been able to progress at such a significant pace. We have the utmost respect and trust for him to continue working with the team. His knowledge and skills will surely bring out the best of our power unit and chassis and give valuable extra strength and depth.
“Our two race drivers for 2017, Fernando and Stoffel, make for an exceptionally strong and highly motivated pairing. The innovative three-driver approach that McLaren-Honda have announced today is a well-balanced line-up and a positive outcome.
“Working with Fernando for the last two seasons has helped push our development at lightning speed. Our hope is that we can deliver the package that he deserves as soon as possible.
“Finally, we would like to give a warm welcome to Stoffel, who has already shown great maturity and promise in 2016 for McLaren-Honda, as well as working with Honda on the Super Formula project. We look forward to working closely with him next season.”