Jenson Button’s final Formula 1 race came to a disappointingly early end after the Briton suffered a front-right upright failure on his McLaren just 13 laps into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Button announced in September that he would be taking a step back from an F1 race seat for the 2017 season, having made his first start back in 2000 and been on the grid ever since.
Despite having a deal to race for McLaren in 2018 should both the driver and team be interested, Button admitted earlier this weekend that he was treating Sunday’s race in Abu Dhabi as his last.
Button qualified 12th for the race, and moved into the top 10 early on, only to suffer a sudden failure on his car after running hard over one of the curb chicanes, damaging the front-right upright and suspension.
Button reported the issue to the McLaren pit wall, who told him to bring the car back into the pits and retire from the race.
“I don’t think we’ve ever suffered a failure like this,” Button chuckled over the radio, the disappointment in his voice impossible to hide.
Upon returning to the pits, Button clambered out of his car before standing on the cockpit and waving to the fans in the grandstand that offered him a standing ovation, paying tribute to the Briton at the end of a storied grand prix career. He also embraced his mom, who was on site.
Button reflected on the early end of the race in a post-race interview with NBCSN’s Will Buxton.
“It’s tricky. I should have won! But that wasn’t on the cards so I thought I’d retire early,” Button laughed.
“But today doesn’t matter. This result means nothing. It’s about having fun. Today was about enjoying the emotions of F1 as a whole with the fans. It meant I could celebrate with the fans when I got out of the car. McLarens don’t fail… but maybe today this happened for a reason. I’m gonna have a jolly good time this evening.
“Last night was amazing. Long dinner reminiscing. We filmed a lot of it… that’s dangerous. Hopefully we don’t lose that camera. Tough moments as well. But also great ones.
“Finishing early today is not a negative. I get to see these great people sooner rather than later.”