Jenson Button: McLaren confirm 2009 world champion will partner Fernando Alonso in 2015 as Kevin Magnussen is dropped

Button and Magnussen were team-mates this season but the availability of Alonso meant one of them was going to get the axe

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The Independent Online

Jenson Button has been handed an unlikely lifeline to remain in Formula One after McLaren confirmed he will partner the returning Fernando Alonso for the 2015 championship, meaning Kevin Magnussen has been dropped to reserve and test driver after just one year with the Woking-based team.

Button had been strongly linked with a move away from F1 with McLaren ready to put their faith in young Dane Magnussen, only to have a change of heart towards the end of the season after being impressed with Button’s resolve and on-track performances. His ability to outperform Magnussen on a Sunday – where the points are won and lost – was a key factor in the decision to retain the 34-year-old for a 16th year in the sport.

The 2009 world champion, who will be 35 by the time the new season gets underway in Melbourne next March, finished this season 8th in the Drivers’ Championship with 126 points and a sole podium, which came in Australia at the start of the year.

 

In a statement released on the McLaren website on Thursday morning, the team announced: "McLaren-Honda is delighted to announce its new driver line-up for 2015: Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Kevin Magnussen will remain an important part of the team, as test and reserve driver."

Button added: “I am extremely excited to be embarking on my 16th year in Formula 1 and my sixth season for McLaren.

“Like Fernando, I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together, and I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team.

“I am also very glad that Kevin will remain part of the team. He is a very quick driver and a really nice guy.

“Last but far from least, I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate. I am sure we will work extremely well together.”

Magnussen managed to pip Button to second in his very first race in F1, but ended up 11th in the standings with 55 points – less than half of Button’s haul – given that the Briton showed brilliant consistency throughout the year to record 10 top-six finishes, four of which came in the final five races.

With McLaren set to renew their famous partnership with engine suppliers Honda next season, they were able to entice Alonso from Ferrari, and the question remained who would partner the Spaniard who is regarded as one of the finest drivers to have ever sat behind the wheel.

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Button won the title with Brawn GP in 2009

Alonso ended his Ferrari contract early in order to leave the Italian manufacturer, with four-time world champions Sebastian Vettel taking his seat for next season. Alonso’s return to McLaren is somewhat surprising given the sour taste that his 2007 exit left after the ‘Spygate’ scandal and a public falling out with Lewis Hamilton.

As a result of Hamilton and Alonso’s bickering, McLaren missed out on the 2007 Drivers’ Championship and had already been excluded from the Constructors’ championship as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen beat them to the title by a single point.

However, Alonso revealed that he was first contacted by McLaren a year ago about returning to the team, and he admitted that he is willing to wait and work in order to achieve the best results.

“I am joining this project with enormous enthusiasm and determination, knowing that it may require some time to achieve the results we are aiming for, which is no problem for me," said Alonso.

“Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest. But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula 1 scene for so long.

“I have had in-depth discussions with all the senior people at both McLaren and Honda, I have viewed their fantastic facilities in both the UK and Japan, and it is clear to me that, together, McLaren and Honda are in the process of beginning what is sure to be a long and successful partnership. And I intend to give 100% effort to help make it exactly that."

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Ron Dennis has elected to choose Button over Magnussen

While Button and Magnussen were seen to be competing to partner Alonso once it became clear that the double-world champion was available for next season, another emerging name began to crop up in conversation in the form of Stoffel Vandoorne.

The current GP2 star is McLaren's reserve driver and was behind the wheel of a Honda-powered McLaren for the first time at the young drivers' test after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, albeit for just over five laps until reliability issues struck the team.

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Vandoorne behind the wheel of the Honda-powered McLaren

It's likely that Vandoorne, who will spend a second season with ART in GP2 next season, will step up to the premier class in 2016, although whether that's with McLaren will largely depend on Button and Alonso's performances next year.

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