A turbulent weekend in the McLaren Honda camp ended with CEO Ron Dennis confirming that he has reached agreement with Jenson Button and that both the 2009 champion and Fernando Alonso will race for McLaren next season.
This came despite Alonso taking to the team radio during the race to criticise the Honda power unit as a “GP2 engine” on two occasions and describing it as “embarrassing”, railing against the standard of drivers he is being forced to race against at the back of the field.
Despite widespread speculation that Button was set to retire at the end of the season, Dennis said that he and Alonso will race for McLaren next season.
“We have Fernando contracted for three years and Jenson contracted for two. We did have an option to terminate Jenson’s contract, but I told him earlier in the week that wasn’t going to happen,” said Dennis.
“He was pleased and maybe I should have told him sooner. I wanted to check with the shareholders and once I had consensus on that..
“The contract is intact and unchanged. I’ve spoken to Jenson about it and he is happy. I could have told him earlier. If you feel the other party isn’t comfortable then you doubt.
Asked ‘Are Button and Alonso in your two primary cars next season?’ Dennis said, “Yes.”
However when this was put to Button he played down Dennis’ suggestion:
“It’s not the right time to say anything yet because nothing is done,” said Button. “I speak to Ron a lot. There have been private meetings. I’ve never talked about our private matters, that’s all I’m going to say.”
Alonso found it hard to hide his frustrations, especially after a Singapore Grand Prix weekend where Sebastian Vettel won for the third time in the Ferrari team that Alonso left last year.
Speaking after the race Alonso said, “When you are being overtaken like we are on the straights it is very frustrating. Also because you see the guys who are making mistakes, braking late missing the line and even with that they are overtaking you on the straight, not even on the braking point. So it’s frustrating. Days like today you feel a but embarrassed because it’s not possible that some of the guys overtake us like this. It should be more competitive, the package.
Alonso said he believes that McLaren is “The only team that will challenge Mercedes in the future, the near future. But right now it’s tough times because we don’t have the toys to fight with them. Everyone is working hard and this is the positive thing.”
Speaking to Sky after the race Dennis said Alonso’s words were “an embarrassment” for Honda and added that he, “Vented his frustrations. I don’t think he needed to make the comment. It wasn’t particularly constructive. We are here in Suzuka, Japan, Honda’s home track. We had the President of Honda, the Head of R&D and the Chief Executive of Honda Motors, the three most senior people who are totally committed to winning a world championship. We will take the pain, it’s the only way to win a world championship.
“He’s a racing driver that needs to have the adrenalin and the passion and he vents his frustration. I wouldn’t say it’s constructive but at the end of the day I’m not going to get too angry about it. I don’t condone it but I’m not going to criticise our drivers because they are pretty frustrated. I’ll sort it behind closed doors.”
Honda has been under pressure all season as they underestimated the challenge of the new hybrid turbo F1 engines and came in to compete against other manufacturers who have at least three years head start on them in the technology.
Both McLarens made it to the finish today, but outside the points in Honda’s home race,
“In front of the home crowd we wanted to do something special here. It was always going to be difficult,” Button said. We are doing our best. We have got to keep out heads down and keep focussed. It’s been a tough weekend for the team, especially Honda. Both of us are finding it tough as drivers, it’s always going to hurt, in front of a home crowd.”
What do you think? Was Alonso out of order? Is he trying to get sacked? Or do you share his frustrations? Leave your comments below