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McLaren: Button took ‘no convincing whatsoever’ to make Monaco return

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown says that Jenson Button took “no convincing whatsoever” when offered the chance to return to Formula 1 for the Monaco Grand Prix next month.

McLaren announced on Wednesday that Fernando Alonso would be entering the 101st Indianapolis 500 as part of a joint entry involving Honda and Andretti Autosport, ruling him out of the Monaco F1 weekend.

The team had planned to make an announcement regarding Alonso’s replacement by the end of the month, but fast-tracked confirmation that Button – who seemingly retired from F1 at the end of last year – would be returning in Monaco.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference, Brown was happy to welcome Button back to a McLaren race seat, saying the 2009 world champion took no persuading at all.

“He was the obvious first choice but we had to make sure he was up for it, since he’s now relocated to the States, and he was very up for it as soon as we contacted him,” Brown said.

“I think it’s great for our team to replace one world champion with another for Monaco. Jenson has won a round there, loves the circuit, and didn’t take any convincing whatsoever when we contacted him.

“So good for us and good for the sport.”

Button’s return ensures his presence in F1 will extend to 18 consecutive seasons, the Briton having made his debut back in 2000 with Williams.

Button raced with McLaren between 2010 and 2016 before stepping back into an ambassador and reserve driver role, signing a two-year deal that runs to the end of 2018.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.