McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has revealed that the team intends to retain Jenson Button for the 2016 season alongside teammate Fernando Alonso.
Button’s future with the British team has come under scrutiny in recent weeks thanks to the presence of junior drivers Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, who both have strong cases for a seat in 2016.
Button came close to losing his seat at the end of last year when McLaren signed Alonso from Ferrari, but it was Magnussen who was ultimately dropped to make way for the Spaniard.
As a result, with the driver market for 2016 becoming increasingly sewn up and defined, attention has turned to McLaren and its dilemma with Button, Magnussen and Vandoorne.
Speaking in Friday’s press conference at Monza, Boullier said that the team planned to race with Alonso and Button once again in 2016 whilst also finding seats for Magnussen and Vandoorne, with the latter seemingly bound for the 2015 GP2 Series championship.
“As far as we are concerned, McLaren have only two cars, only two race seats and we have two world champions and we intend to keep them so far,” Boullier said.
“We expect the four of them to race. It’s a luxury problem to have four good drivers. Kevin and Stoffel are very good.
“Both of them we expect to race in F1 and if we can’t accommodate them at home, we will do our best to make sure they can race next year.”
Boullier may intend to see all four of the McLaren drivers on the grid in 2016, but it may be easier said than done given the scarce number of available seats remaining.
As such, the only seats that appear to be on offer for the McLaren drivers are at Lotus, Manor or Haas.
In Lotus’ case, a takeover from Renault appears to be on the cards in the near future, and it is unclear whether the French manufacturer would be willing to support the young drivers of a rival team.
Haas is in a similar position given its close ties with Ferrari, which look set to see at least one of the Italian marque’s reserve drivers secure a seat with the American team for its 2016 debut.
As such, the only team that could realistically offer a seat to Magnussen or Vandoorne is Manor, but with little chance of scoring points or moving up the grid in terms of pace, this may prove to be an unattractive option for either driver.
Although McLaren may intend to retain Button, until a final decision is made and a formal announcement emerges, speculation about the 2009 world champion’s future will only continue to circulate.