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McLaren set for tough driver decision if Button retires

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McLaren Racing CEO Jonathan Neale has conceded that the team will be left with a difficult task in choosing a replacement for Jenson Button should the Briton opt to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season.

Button is known to be considering his future in F1 after a difficult recent spell with McLaren, and had been tipped to announce his retirement from the sport ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

However, Button did not make any announcement, and instead revealed that he remains engaged in “good talks” with McLaren about 2016 as the team tries to keep him.

If Button were to walk away from the sport, McLaren would be left with two drivers to choose from for 2016: Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Both have tasted success in junior categories, with Vandoorne currently marching to the GP2 Series championship in record-breaking fashion. Magnussen (pictured left) raced for McLaren back in 2014 before being dropped in favor of Fernando Alonso, but still enjoys a high stock within the team.

Speaking to NBCSN in Suzuka on Friday, Neale admitted that McLaren will find it difficult to pick between its two outstanding junior talents should Button free up a seat at Woking for 2016.

“We do have almost an embarrassment of riches,” Neale conceded. “We select on the basis of merit. Kevin has experience with us in the car, has driven, we know him, he’s working very hard behind the scenes with us.

“Stoffel is having a tremendous season, his star is in the ascendancy as he dominates in GP2, and has driven I think a very mature and balanced year for a young guy. But it’s a big step coming into Formula 1, and we know that. It’s not impossible by any means, he’s a really exciting prospect, and the challenge will be a tough one.

“It will be a difficult decision to make, but there is no auto-succession planning mechanism that sits in behind here. We don’t have them queued up and come off in some particular order.

“It’ll be a decision for the board at the McLaren Technology Group, the shareholders. Eric [Boullier] and I will have a view, Ron [Dennis] will have a view, and that’ll be an interesing discussion.”

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.