Jenson Button in for the long term with McLaren-Honda after signing two-year deal
"We have both agreed that more than one year is a must," says Jenson after signing contract extension on Wednesday night
By Pete Gill and James Galloway
Last Updated: 11/12/14 5:02pm
Jenson Button has stressed that the new McLaren-Honda partnership will need time to fulfil its potential after signing a two-year deal to stay on with the team.
While Button’s retention, which was only finalised on Wednesday evening after an interminable delay, was not necessarily a surprise, the news that the veteran had put pen to paper on a multi-year contract was. At the ages of 34 and 33 respectively, Button and new team-mate Fernando Alonso will be far and away the most experienced on the grid.
But ahead of McLaren’s reunion with Honda, and the inevitable complications of integrating a new power unit into a new car, Button believes that experience will be just as important as patience in the seasons ahead. Note the plural.
“We have both agreed that more than one year is a must,” said the Englishman. “This is a new project and an exciting project. To be part of the legendary partnership between McLaren and Honda is not a one-year thing. I’m looking forward to more than one year.
"We can't really talk about the contract in detail, but it's clear I'm not here to be around for one year. I'm here to fight for the World Championship and whether that's in 2015 or not - maybe it won't be, maybe it will be in future years - but I'm hopefully here for the long-term."
To the frustration of his supporters, confirmation that Button would be retained ahead of Kevin Magnussen was only delivered after protracted deliberations at Woking with no fewer than three summit meetings held by the team’s hierarchy to determine their 2015 line-up ending without resolution.
“It’s been quite a long few weeks but sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for," said Button. "It will be my 16th year in F1 and, more importantly, my sixth year with McLaren."
Although he has lost his race seat, 23-year-old Magnussen has been kept within the McLaren framework as the team's test and reserve driver. Still just 23, the young Dane's time will come again, although Dennis, when asked to specify the length of deals signed by both Button and Alonso, confirmed: "What I can say with both is they are plural not singular.
"The two-year contract was my idea, not Jenson's. He didn't ask for a two-year contract. We made a proposal, part of which was two years."
It's understood that Button has taken a substantial pay-cut to stay on, while Alonso's deal is reputed to be one of the biggest in the history of the sport.
"I’m not one to shy away from a challenge and this is a really exciting challenge. To be involved in the new era of McLaren-Honda and to be alongside this guy [Alonso] is a big challenge but an exciting challenge," added the 2009 title winner. "I’m here to compete and fight for the World Championship."
While the pair have worked together before, at Renault in 2002 when Button was a race driver and Alonso a tester, the Briton is looking forward to going up against his new team-mate in the same car.
"In Formula 1 it is so important to have experience and to be racing alongside Fernando, it really does mean a lot. We all know what Fernando has achieved in the sport and not just his speed, the way he works within a team and how he's always there fighting," Button said of his fellow world champion.
"For me having a team-mate like that does mean a lot. We know each other pretty well and with 500 grands prix between us we will play a major role in helping McLaren-Honda achieve great things in the future."
McLaren’s procrastination resulted in Button weighing up the merits of leaving F1 to join the World Endurance Championship but, when the opportunity to stay at McLaren arose, the Englishman had no hesitation in signing a new deal.
“I did reflect on life outside of Formula 1 and, from what I’ve seen, it is nowhere near as fun as life in Formula 1!” admitted Button. “My heart has always been here, to race for McLaren and to race with Honda. I've had some very special times racing with Honda, we've had some difficult times as well, but there is a lot we can do together and achieve together. It’s definitely a decision that was worth waiting for.”
And, despite being made to wait by the team on his future for weeks, Button was keen to look forwards the future rather than dwell on the lowpoints of the saga.
“I’ve been very open in how I’ve felt over the last few weeks and months and I don’t think there’s any reason to comment any further. The positive is where we are right now and we move on from here," he added.