The signs are growing stronger that Jenson Button will secure at least one more year at McLaren. The British team's quest for a star champion like Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso to spearhead the new Honda era beginning in 2015 has been an open paddock secret.
But the latest reports suggest McLaren-Honda may now instead try to impress with a solid first season next year and try again to lure a top name for 2016. McLaren protege and rookie Kevin Magnussen appears almost assured of a second season. The Dane's wheel-to-wheel driving was penalised by the stewards not only at Spa but again at Monza, but team boss Eric Boullier says Magnussen, 21, should not be deterred.
"I think he needs to keep building up his confidence by doing what he's doing," the Frenchman told reporters this week. "It's clear that he's stepping up," Boullier added. "He might be punching above his weight because he doesn't have the car to be fast enough for a better result. Obviously his self-confidence is growing massively and that's good for his racecraft which is only going to get better and better."
Button's prospects going forward have been much more clouded, but the 34-year-old - the second-oldest and most experienced driver on the grid - now appears headed for a 2015 extension. The Daily Mail quotes him as revealing he spent "a lot of time" with McLaren supremo Ron Dennis over the Italian grand prix weekend.
"Forgetting the driver situation with Kevin and myself," said Button, "it was good to talk about the future of the team, the direction it is going and how it is performing. It was all interesting and encouraging, which comes on the back of the last couple of races in particular which have been good in terms of atmosphere within the team."
On paper, however, Button's seat is still technically unsecured beyond 2014. Lotus' dissatisfied Romain Grosjean at Monza admitted that Ferrari and McLaren were at the top of his list of dream alternatives for the future. His current boss Gerard Lopez admitted it is possible the Frenchman will leave.
"One (driver) - Pastor (Maldonado) - has already been confirmed" for 2015, he told F1's official website. "And Romain has in his contract -- it is no secret that he could step out of the contract given the bad results, but I am pretty sure we will stay with what we have," Lopez added. (GMM)