Amid a calamitous season for McLaren, media reports have emerged this week suggesting that Jenson Button’s future at Woking beyond 2015 is by no means a done and dusted deal, while the Briton may find it hard to motivate himself for another season of trials and tribulations with no reward.
A report by the British broadcaster Sky this week exclaimed that team supremo Ron Dennis “insists Jenson Button will stay at McLaren for 2016”.
The headline followed comments by Dennis at Silverstone last weekend, in which he declared: “Jenson Button has a two-year contract with McLaren. We are not even thinking about drivers at the moment.”
But Daniel Johnson, writing for the Telegraph, said 35-year-old Button’s future is actually as clouded now as it was for much of last year.
He said the popular Briton’s deal is actually not for two guaranteed years, but “one plus one” — one definite year and then an ‘option’ that McLaren must trigger.
Andrew Benson, the BBC’s chief F1 writer, agrees: “Let’s get one thing clear – Jenson Button is not guaranteed a seat at McLaren in 2016.”
He said Dennis’ quote is “both factually accurate and misleading”.
The Telegraph’s Johnson added: “[Dennis] has never been a master of communication. His latest comments on Jenson Button’s future … are just the latest example.”
Indeed, McLaren team boss Eric Boullier said at Silverstone: “Between now and let’s say September, which is more or less the time when we have to decide, maybe we have not sorted out the situation faster, they (the drivers) get frustrated, and they want to go, so it’s not in my hands.”
Another factor could be money with El Confidencial quoting Boullier saying, “So far we have a good prognosis for the coming years, but the lack of success is going to hurt us in terms of revenue, and we’re going to have to find a way to cover this.”
McLaren pays Button about $10 million a year, so switching to a promising junior like Kevin Magnussen or Stoffel Vandoorne could save the struggling team a considerable amount.
On the other side of the coin, Button himself a veteran of 16 seasons in Formula 1, including a world title in his pocket, may find it difficult to motivate himself for another season of back of the grid hardship and may find it an ideal time to call it quits as money is unlikely to be an issue.