British newspapers say Jenson Button has been selected to be fellow champion Fernando Alonso's Honda-powered McLaren teammate in 2015. Contrary to earlier speculation that after long deliberations the Woking team's in-house protege Kevin Magnussen would win the day, the news was reported by major publications including the Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail and Express.
The Daily Mail said it had learned of 34-year-old Button's looming new deal from "an impeccably-placed source within McLaren". The team is expected to announce its 2015 lineup, with Spaniard Alonso returning to the team in perhaps the most lucrative deal in F1 history, during a press conference at its UK headquarters on Thursday morning.
Button, a veteran of 15 seasons in F1 and previously a works Honda driver until 2008, ultimately "settled for a heavily reduced salary", the Daily Mail added. Interestingly, however, the highly-respected correspondent for Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Michael Schmidt, said 22-year-old Dane Magnussen would "in all likelihood" get the nod to race alongside Alonso next year.
Schmidt also reported that, up until Wednesday, Alonso was still in the running to simply sit out 2015 and instead race alongside Porsche's new signing Nico Hulkenberg at Le Mans next year. It was said departed Ferrari driver Alonso is alarmed at the progress of Honda's new turbo V6 engine, but McLaren's monetary offer was "too high to refuse". "It is well above his Ferrari salary," Schmidt claimed.
Spain's El Mundo appeared to confirm the lateness of Alonso's decision, reporting that until hours ago the 33-year-old was still in Dubai. Subsequently, he headed to the UK for Thursday morning's expected announcement. McLaren's new lineup has worked together before, when Alonso was Button's test driver at Renault in 2002.
Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean backtracked on earlier comments suggesting Button should be dropped by McLaren to make way for "fresh blood" in F1. On Twitter, Button had hit back at the Frenchman, but Grosjean replied: "I never said 'time for Jenson Button to leave F1. He deserves his place! (It's) just hard for young drivers to get a seat (as there are) only 20 available." (GMM)