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Is Jenson Button preparing to quit Formula One?

Reports suggest the 2009 world champ is soon to leave F1. TG investigates

Speculation is mounting that Jenson Button is preparing to announce his retirement from Formula One at the Grand Prix in Suzuka this weekend.

Reports have suggested that McLaren racer Button – who sits third on the all-time list of F1 starters with 278 races under his belt – has privately made a decision on his future, though nothing has been officially confirmed yet.

An announcement in Japan would make sense as Button is closely connected to the country: his wife Jessica is Japanese, as are McLaren’s engine partners Honda.

After the last race in Singapore, Jenson told reporters: “I have made that decision, that’s the important thing. It is always nice to make an announcement when you are at your home grand prix, but I don’t know what’s happening yet.”

Fernando Alonso gave his backing to his teammate only last week, saying that “the experience Jenson comes with has been very important” for the team.

McLaren are reportedly paying £33m for Button and Alonso 

McLaren team principle Eric Boullier has also shown support for the 35-year-old, confirming Woking’s intention to maintain the current line-up earlier in the month.

While McLaren technically have the option of extending the Brit’s contract for another twelve months, they would be unlikely to put pressure on Button to stay if he asked to leave.

There are other factors to consider as well. McLaren are reportedly paying a combined £33m for Button and Alonso’s services for 2015 (with the latter receiving over three-quarters of that figure); a mighty sum given that the team has collected only 17 world championship points so far this season.

With talented youngsters Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings, Button’s departure would open the door to a driver with the potential to race for McLaren for the next decade.

Promoting a rookie would also generate a significant financial saving; money which could be redirected into development to improve the performance of the car.

The MP4-30 has been uncompetitive and unreliable in 2015

McLaren’s MP4-30 has been uncompetitive and unreliable in 2015, with the Woking outfit lagging behind everyone except Manor in the constructors standings.

This lack of pace has largely been down to the Honda power unit, which has given the Japanese manufacturer endless grief in its first year back in the sport.

Both drivers have managed to maintain an impressively positive face (ignoring Alonso’s “amateurs” rant in Canada) throughout 2015, although the reality of struggling at the back appears to have caught up with Jenson.

“The joy of being in the car is only there if you’re fighting at the front,” said the 2009 champion this week. “Because you feel like you’re achieving something.

“If you’re fighting near the back, you’re driving an F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else. The joy you get is from competing. It’s about fighting at the front. It’s about the possibility of standing on top of the podium. That’s the joy of F1.”

Sadly it looks unlikely that Button will experience that ‘joy’ again in Formula One, with little prospect of McLaren surging back up the grid in 2016.

Alternative racing disciplines will surely look tempting

Another season among the backmarkers is unlikely to appeal to a man who has previously reached the pinnacle of the sport. It has been widely reported that Button is contemplating a move into media, while if he chooses to remain in racing, alternative disciplines will surely begin to look tempting.

Mark Webber – who quit F1 in 2013 – has said he’d like to see Button “try something different”, and joining the Aussie in the World Endurance Championship has been mooted by many in recent months.

Though Button has passed the traditional peak years of a racing driver, there’s no doubt that he has a lot to offer, wherever he ends up.

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