Jenson Button says he is treating this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as his final Formula 1 race despite having an option to return in 2018.
Button announced in September that he would be stepping back from his McLaren F1 race seat for 2017, making way for GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
The Briton is part of what McLaren has called an ‘innovative three-driver strategy’ and will work as the team’s reserve driver through 2017, being on standby should Vandoorne or teammate Fernando Alonso be unable to race.
There is also an option in Button’s contract to return full-time should both he and McLaren agree a deal, appearing to act as a safety net for the team should Alonso decide to leave after 2017.
Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference, Button said that although the door will not be shutting on his F1 career this weekend, he is treating Abu Dhabi as his last grand prix.
“I go into this weekend thinking it’s going to be my last race,” Button said.
“I think that’s the best way. It is going to be my last race. At this moment in time, I don’t want to be racing in F1 beyond this year.
“It is true that I have a contract in 2018, but at this moment in time I am not going to be racing in 2018.
“The whole point of this was if in three months’ time I had eaten myself stupid and I changed my mind.
“I don’t want to go into this race thinking it’s not my last race and it is.”
Button is not the only outgoing driver in Abu Dhabi this weekend, with Williams’ Felipe Massa confirmed to be making his final start in F1.
Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).
It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).
Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other Ganassi drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.
The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.
“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”
“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”