Jenson Button has given a clear indication that if he does end up retiring from Formula One at the end of the year, it won’t be of his own volition.
Following speculation at the last race in Singapore that he was about to announce his retirement during this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the 2009 world champion instead said he was still in talks with his team McLaren-Honda about the terms for next season.
“You’re going to have to wait for a little while,” the English driver said. “But we are in good talks, the team and myself. But we’re here to concentrate on a big weekend for us, McLaren-Honda in front of Honda’s home crowd at their own circuit…”
Pushed a little harder, the 35-year-old added: “There’s so many possibilities of what could happen next year, so many possibilities. But I’ve got nothing else for you, I’m sorry to say.”
After dropping out of the race in Singapore, he admitted he had not been “joyful”, which prompted the speculation over his future. “I don’t think any driver has joy when they’re not fighting for victories,” he elaborated. “That’s what we’re here to do, you know, that’s what we love. It’s the challenge of fighting at the front and the possibility of fighting at the front.
“So, no, I don’t like finishing 14th. I don’t like finishing 10th. That’s not what gives me joy, that’s not what excites me – but there are so many other things that, if they work in your favour, or if you see a future, there’s the possibility of joy coming back. And that’s exciting.”
The Manor team principal, John Booth, admitted that the weekend will be hard for his team on the anniversary of Jules Bianchi’s crash in last year’s race – which led to his death in July – but added that the team would keep their tributes private.
“We think of Jules every single day, he will forever be a huge part of our team,” Booth said. “Without doubt, our memories are overwhelmingly happy ones, celebrating his incredible achievements in our race cars and the enjoyable times we shared.
“His name has also been on our car at every single race. That tribute, our incredibly fond memories of Jules and the camaraderie we have within our team are all we need to race on in his honour in Suzuka this weekend.”