Jenson Button has refused to rule out a full-time return to the Formula One grid next season as he prepares for his fairytale comeback in Monaco.
Button, who seemingly called time on his 17-season career in Abu Dhabi last November, will be back behind the wheel of a McLaren a week on Sunday when he replaces Fernando Alonso in a one-off appearance at the famous Monte Carlo race, while the Spaniard competes in the Indianapolis 500.
The 37-year-old Englishman may have relinquished his racing duties this season, but the deal in which he signed with Ron Dennis – McLaren’s long-serving boss who was ousted at the end of last year – means he remain under contract for this season and 2018, too.
And with Alonso’s future at McLaren hanging in the balance, Button has claimed he could be called upon by the British team to return next season.
“I can’t rule it out,” Button told Press Association Sport. “I have a contract with the team to race next year so I would definitely not rule anything out.”
Button also revealed that he was contacted earlier this year by two teams wanting him to race for them this season. Mercedes and Williams were the only two outfits to confirm their line-ups in January following Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement and Valtteri Bottas’ ensuing switch from Williams to join Lewis Hamilton at Formula One’s world championship-winning team.
“I had so many options to race this year it is hilarious,” added Button, who was speaking on the Santander 123 World film set in London where, alongside Jessica Ennis-Hill, he’s playing virtual reality stunts on unsuspecting Santander customers.
“That even went into this year with two different teams asking me to race. I have no interest in doing that. I am thinking of Monaco as my only race this year. Obviously if I am asked again at another point in the year I am here to fill that seat. But I am not going to go out of my way to ask to drive because the whole idea was not to.”
Button won 15 grands prix during a career which climaxed in him winning the championship with Brawn GP in 2009. He now spends most of his time in the United States with his model girlfriend Brittny Ward.
He competed in an Ironman in California on Saturday, winning his age group, and in doing so, securing his spot at the world championships in Tennessee later this year. And Button’s new life, far removed from the F1 paddock, naturally led to some suggestions that he had no interest in replacing Alonso in a McLaren which has been beset by Honda engine problems this season.
Button said: “I am massively excited about it as I would not do it otherwise. I had the option to say ‘no’ because nobody wants someone in the car that doesn’t want to be there.
Big Question: Should Jenson return to F1 next year?