Jenson Button might not be ready to retire even after the 2016 season. In the past few weeks, the 35-year-old has made no secret of his deliberations about the future amid an apparent contractual dispute with McLaren. But now with his full pay-rise promised, 2009 world champion Button has indicated he might also keep the fire burning for 2017, when a technical revolution designed to considerably speed up F1 is set to take place.
"For me, the exciting year is 2017," he admitted to Auto Express. "There's going to be so much more mechanical grip -- from what I've seen it could be four or five seconds quicker a lap through mechanical grip and aerodynamics. That for me is exciting, that takes me back to 10 years ago. Also, I've just heard that next year they're going to be making the cars sound a bit better -- F1 isn't in a bad place at the moment and it's going to get better," added Button.
However, an obvious cloud is hanging over McLaren-Honda at present, causing more than one pundit to wonder about the future of the Anglo-Japanese collaboration. Former F1 team owner Gian Carlo Minardi told Il Giornale: "The (Honda's) technical gap is significant and it is hard to see the improvements coming. At the moment I do not see a future for them in formula one after 2016," he added.
Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo, however, sounds committed, even though he admits the Japanese carmaker has found the challenge of the new power unit era "fiercer than expected". "We understand it is not an easy task, and we should not expect a radical change in our performance in the near future, but we remain dedicated to achieving the first win with this team and we will continue to make our best efforts with McLaren to achieve better results and success in the future," he added.
What is clear is that, now that he has committed to F1 for 2016, any talk that Button might combine next year's calendar with racing at Le Mans will definitely stop. That is because Bernie Ecclestone has scheduled the inaugural race in Azerbaijan next year to clash with the fabled endurance sports car race, which earlier this year was won by Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg. "I like what Bernie's done with that," Button laughed. "He's just made it clear that F1 drivers are not supposed to be driving anything else except F1 cars -- you can't race at Le Mans now!" (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing