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.”