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McLaren: Button took ‘no convincing whatsoever’ to make Monaco return

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McLaren executive director Zak Brown says that Jenson Button took “no convincing whatsoever” when offered the chance to return to Formula 1 for the Monaco Grand Prix next month.

McLaren announced on Wednesday that Fernando Alonso would be entering the 101st Indianapolis 500 as part of a joint entry involving Honda and Andretti Autosport, ruling him out of the Monaco F1 weekend.

The team had planned to make an announcement regarding Alonso’s replacement by the end of the month, but fast-tracked confirmation that Button – who seemingly retired from F1 at the end of last year – would be returning in Monaco.

Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference, Brown was happy to welcome Button back to a McLaren race seat, saying the 2009 world champion took no persuading at all.

“He was the obvious first choice but we had to make sure he was up for it, since he’s now relocated to the States, and he was very up for it as soon as we contacted him,” Brown said.

“I think it’s great for our team to replace one world champion with another for Monaco. Jenson has won a round there, loves the circuit, and didn’t take any convincing whatsoever when we contacted him.

“So good for us and good for the sport.”

Button’s return ensures his presence in F1 will extend to 18 consecutive seasons, the Briton having made his debut back in 2000 with Williams.

Button raced with McLaren between 2010 and 2016 before stepping back into an ambassador and reserve driver role, signing a two-year deal that runs to the end of 2018.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”