With 307 Grand Prix appearances and 304 race starts in a glittering career that’s dated to 2000, Jenson Button could well be making his final career start in this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Button, in his new role as reserve driver for McLaren Honda, will be taking a step back from racing full-time in F1. He could wind up racing on dirt, with rumors of a switch to rallycross percolating. But he won’t be racing with McLaren for the first time since his World Championship campaign of 2009.
In 2014, Button was still on good form when he headed into Abu Dhabi for what we thought at the time could also have been his last Grand Prix. Of course, a couple weeks later, he and Fernando Alonso were confirmed for the then-new McLaren Honda partnership into 2015 with Kevin Magnussen getting the short end of the sick.
Now, the future for him as an F1 race driver looks less certain and if this is the end of his career this weekend, it’s been a good one.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend, and have been for a few races now,” Button said in the team’s pre-race advance. “It marks a very special chapter in my life and I’ll have my friends and some of my family out in Abu Dhabi with me which I’m very excited about.
“It’s going to be a hugely emotional weekend and I hope with the support of the fans, the team and the people that are closest to me, we can go out there and give it our absolute maximum and enjoy the weekend.
“It’s not the end of my career with McLaren-Honda, but it’s the start of a new phase that I’m incredibly positive about. This race marks the culmination of a huge amount of hard work, dedication and passion for the sport that I love and I’m immensely proud of everything I’ve achieved in the past 17 seasons, and the fantastic progress we’ve made over the past couple of years with McLaren-Honda.
“It’s been an amazing project to work on and my involvement certainly won’t end here. I’m looking forward to concluding this chapter in style and starting a new one with just as much enthusiasm, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier also took time to thank Button for his racing duties going into the weekend.
“This weekend also marks a very significant moment for McLaren-Honda, as we bid farewell to Jenson, who will be stepping out of the cockpit after the race on Sunday to embark on a new chapter both with McLaren-Honda and in his personal life,” Boullier said. “As we know, it’s farewell for now and not goodbye, and we’ll be working side by side with him over the coming year, when he’ll be as close to the team and our developments as ever.
“Nevertheless, it’s a poignant step in our history together and an opportunity to celebrate his 17 seasons in the sport, seven with McLaren, and celebrate his many achievements on track. We’ll certainly miss him in the garage, but we look forward to continuing our relationship and the exciting projects we’ll be working on together in 2017.”
Button ranks 15th in this year’s Driver’s Championship with 21 points, and a best finish of sixth place at the Austrian Grand Prix.