Fernando Alonso says that Jenson Button is “the best teammate I ever had” following the Briton’s decision to step back from his McLaren Formula 1 race seat in 2017.
McLaren announced following qualifying at Monza on Saturday that Stoffel Vandoorne would partner Alonso for the 2017 season, with Button stepping back into a development and ambassadorial role.
Alonso joined Button at McLaren in 2015, the pair working together to help develop the Honda power unit and take McLaren up the grid.
Speaking at the announcement on Saturday at Monza, Alonso paid tribute to Button by calling him the best teammate he has had.
“I’ve been working with Jenson for the last two years. It was fantastic work,” Alonso said.
“Probably… not probably – I can say that he was the best teammate I ever had.
“In terms of performance, in terms of feedback with the engineers and the car development, it was great with him.”
Alonso is pleased that Button will still be playing a role at McLaren, having signed a two-year deal, but is looking forward to working alongside Vandoorne.
“We will have Jenson in the team which is the most important thing,” Alonso said.
“The best news of this change is that we will have Stoffel in the car with the fresh ideas and we will push the team to the maximum, but also we still have Jenson around us, helping us and giving all his contributions.
“So I think it’s very good news for the team for the future, and now we are ready and looking forward to Australia.”
There is an option for Button to move back into a race seat with McLaren for 2018, should both the driver and the team be willing, coinciding with the expiry of Alonso’s contract.
Alonso has long-stated that he will walk away from F1 after 2017 if the new-spec cars are not to his liking, with McLaren’s option with Button appearing to be a back-up plan should that happen.