McLaren F1 confirms Button as Alonso’s Monaco GP replacement

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McLaren has confirmed that 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button will make a return to racing at next month’s Monaco Grand Prix, deputizing for Fernando Alonso.

Alonso announced on Wednesday that he would be entering the 101st Indianapolis 500 as part of a joint entry between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport, opting to skip the Monaco F1 race.

McLaren said that it was still exploring a number of options regarding Alonso’s replacement, and hoped to make an announcement by the end of the month.

A deal has now been struck to bring Button back into a full-time seat for Monaco, with the Briton having stepped back from a racing role at the end of last year to become a McLaren ambassador and its reserve driver.

Button’s return was confirmed on Friday morning by McLaren in Bahrain.

“I’m thrilled to be making a one-off return to Formula 1 racing, and I couldn’t think of a better place to make that return than my adopted home grand prix: Monaco,” Button said.

“I’ve won the race before, in 2009, and it’s one of my all-time favourite racetracks. It’s a tricky street circuit on which a good driver can really make a difference – and, although the McLaren-Honda MCL32 hasn’t begun the season well, I think it may be more suited to Monaco than to the faster circuits that Fernando and Stoffel [Vandoorne] have raced it on so far this season.

“OK, I realize we won’t have a realistic chance of repeating my 2009 victory, but I think we’ll have an opportunity to score world championship points, which will be very valuable to the team in terms of constructors’ rankings.”

Despite not enjoying any track time in a car since the end of last season, Button is confident that he will be fit enough to race the faster, more aggressive 2017 McLaren MCL32 model, and relishes the prospect of trying out the new runner.

“But most of all I’m looking forward to pitting myself against the unique racing challenge that is the Monaco Grand Prix,” Button said.

“I’ll drive the MCL32 around Monaco in the McLaren sim beforehand, and I reckon I’ll be ready for the race after doing that. I’m supremely fit, having done a lot of triathlon training recently, so I have no worries on that score.

“And it’ll be nice to say ‘hi’ to all my old Formula 1 mates too, and hopefully to give the fans something to cheer about.”

Button raced for McLaren between 2010 and 2016 before announcing last September that he would be moving back from his seat to open up a role for junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne.

Button signed a two-year deal with McLaren to remain a brand ambassador and reserve driver, including an option to return to F1 full-time in 2018 should both sides be willing.

Nevertheless, Button was treating last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi as his final F1 race, saying at the time that the option on 2018 was signed in case he regretted his decision to call it quits.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.