Jenson Button says he does not want to compete in Formula 1 in 2018 and is treating this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as his final race.
McLaren announced at the Italian Grand Prix that the British racer would be its reserve driver in 2017 and had a contract to race in 2018 if Fernando Alonso decided to leave F1 after next season.
But speaking at the pre-event press conference for this weekend’s race at the Yas Marina circuit, Button explained that he was treating the season finale as his F1 swansong.
He said: “I go into this weekend thinking it is going to be my last race. That is the best way to be at this moment of time. Beyond this, I don’t want to be racing in F1 – that is the whole idea. I think of this as my last race and hopefully everyone else does.”
Button was asked if anything had changed since the Monza announcement – where the 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne, who replaced Alonso on a one-off appearance at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year, was confirmed as a McLaren race driver alongside the Spaniard in 2017.
The 2009 world champion explained that the situation was the same as it has been in September, and he added that he could still conceivably change his outlook on racing in 2018.
He said: “Nothing has changed, I am just going into this race thinking it is my last. I don’t want to go in thinking it isn’t my last and [then] it is my last. It is true I have a contract for 2018 but at this moment in time I am not going to be racing in 2018.
“The whole idea about having a contract is that in three months’ time, when I have eaten myself stupid and am thinking of things to do in the future, maybe I realise I need F1 back in my life.
“But in this moment of time that isn’t the case. So this is my last race [and] that is how I think about it at the moment. Who knows, this could change in six to eight months or one year.”
The final race of the 2016 F1 season will be Button’s 305th Grand Prix start and he has scored 15 wins, eight poles, 1235 points and eight fastest laps to go alongside his 2009 title with the Brawn team during his stint in F1.
The 36-year-old’s career in the championship began at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix where he raced for Williams and he has since gone to compete for Benetton (which became Renault), BAR (which became Honda and Brawn) and McLaren.
As reflected on his 16-year career in the sport, Button declared that he could leave F1 being happy with his achievements.
He said: “It has been a long journey – from eight years old until now I have been racing in motorsport. Everything before F1 was work to try to get to F1, and you get to F1 with many dreams and aspire to be something.
“I raced for two teams I dreamed of racing for as a kid, Williams and McLaren, and when I won the championship it was with a privateer team, which is very special. There are so many memories I can’t put them all out on the table right now.
“I will definitely step away from F1 happy with what I achieved and knowing my life does start now.”
What do you make of the news that Button is not expecting to race in F1 after 2016? How would you assess the 2009 world champion’s career? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.