McLaren’s post-December 1 driver lineup announcement has finally been revealed, following several days including a board meeting at the company’s headquarters last Thursday that failed to produce a lineup.
The Honda-powered team has gone for an all-veteran, double World Champion lineup of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
McLaren chairman and CEO Ron Dennis expanded on the decision, and the delay.
“We signed Fernando a little while ago, but we decided not to announce the fact until we had also re-signed Jenson as his teammate,” Dennis said in a team release. “For many reasons our negotiations with Jenson took quite a long time, but, now that they have been concluded, we are confident that our collaboration with him will continue to thrive in the future every bit as well as it has in the past. Make no mistake about it, Jenson is 100 percent committed to McLaren-Honda, to Formula One, and to winning.”
As expected, Alonso has officially been confirmed for his return to the team that he raced in 2007. The two-time World Champion left Ferrari after five seasons, and his return to McLaren has been something of an open secret over the last month; he told NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the last Grand Prix of the year in Abu Dhabi his next move “won’t be much of a surprise for anybody.”
“McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence, ahead,” Alonso said.
After a long delay and much deliberation, 2009 World Champion Button will be retained alongside, with Kevin Magnussen retained as well, as test and reserve driver.
McLaren has opted to go for an all-veteran lineup with Button alongside Alonso. This is now the oldest pairing on the grid (Button is 34, Alonso 33) and the second team to have two World Champions in its two cars. Ferrari, Alonso’s former squad, has Sebastian Vettel joining alongside Kimi Raikkonen.
“Like Fernando, I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together, and I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team,” Button said.
This leaves the Dane, Magnussen, somewhat out in the cold after just one season, same as was the case for Sergio Perez a year ago. But Magnussen will still have a role with the team in that new capacity.
The decision also leaves McLaren’s newest highest touted prospect, GP2 driver Stoffel Vandoorne, waiting in the wings for at least one more season. The Belgian starred in his rookie year of GP2, finishing second in the championship, but racing director Eric Boullier said toward the end of the year Vandoorne was likely to stay in GP2 for another season.
More to come throughout the morning on MotorSportsTalk.