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Dennis: Button, Alonso not going anywhere for 2016

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McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis has rejected speculation suggesting that Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso may not be racing with the team in 2016, confirming that he plans to keep both drivers for next season.

Button had been tipped to announce his retirement from Formula 1 ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, but confirmed on Thursday that he remains engaged in “good talks” with McLaren about his future.

McLaren’s downturn in on-track fortunes in 2015 has left both Button and Alonso frustrated, causing speculation about their futures with the team to ignite at Suzuka.

However, in an interview with the BBC, Dennis reacted to these rumors by confirming that both Button and Alonso had contracts with the team for 2016 that McLaren would honor.

“Jenson is on a two-year contract and Fernando is on a three-year contract. It’s as simple as that,” Dennis said. “At the end of the day, nothing has been clearer.

“They’ve got agreements in place. We’ll honor the agreement because we want to. We want to have both of them in the team, it’s as simple as that. We will have a winning team and we hope sooner rather than later.”

McLaren was thought to have an option to extend Button’s contract into a second years, which was reportedly set to expire at the end of the month.

However, Dennis revealed that McLaren in fact has the option to terminate Button’s contract, and the team will not be exercising this.

“It has an option to stop,” Dennis said. “I told Jenson on Thursday – probably too late – that I have no intention of exercising the option. He was told on Thursday we have no intention of exercising the option.”

Button’s place was reportedly at risk due to the financial standing of McLaren, which has worsened since it dropped down the grid in 2015 and given that the team is racing without a title sponsor.

Dennis rejected this idea, though, saying: “Money doesn’t come into it. Of course it’s tough when you move down the grid, but at the end of the day, money doesn’t come into it.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).