The McLaren team has come in for rather a lot of flak during the past few weeks over its 2015 driver-decision stalling, hasn’t it? Which of its incumbents would it keep for next season: veteran Jenson Button, winner of 15 grands prix (eight of them for the Woking squad) and the 2009 drivers’ world championship title, or his team-mate Kevin Magnussen, the highly rated young Dane with just one season under his belt?
We all got very cross about the dilly-dallying from the team’s senior management – who’d held a board meeting to thrash out the dilemma yet still failed to reach a decision, thus leaving Button and Magnussen in the dark about which of them would be lining up alongside double world champion and McLaren returnee Fernando Alonso.
Team boss Ron Dennis and Alonso, who threw his toys out of the McLaren pram in 2007 after finding himself matched by rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton, are all smiles again. Time will tell if it all gels this time round
‘Disgusting!’ ‘Disgraceful!’ were two words used by countless fans to describe the treatment handed out to national treasure Button and future star Magnussen. The thing is, though, the team had its reasons for the delay and indecision, doubtless part of a typically complicated weave of corporate, political and financial machinations to which we’re not party. That’s F1 all over, though, so let’s just leave that there.
All is well now of course, for last Thursday McLaren assembled a throng of British media at its Surrey HQ to give them the good news: it would be keeping both drivers to spearhead its new-look, Honda-powered future. Jenson will race alongside Fernando, with Kevin assuming the role of test/development driver and likely to step back into a race seat at some point.
Smiles all round, then, as Button expressed relief at not being dropped and the urge to get going once more with his friends at Honda, for which he’d scored his breakthrough win in Hungary in 2006.
There was another mini media frenzy ahead of the news, with the Thursday-morning announcement doing the social-media rounds on Wednesday night. Unavoidable, really, as McLaren was hardly likely to gather the patriotic, Button-keen media together to impart bad news, was it?
Whatever the whys, why nots, whens and wheres, it’s great news for F1. The sport needs folk like Button, who’ll be 35 and starting his 16th season (sixth with McLaren) when the circus reconvenes in Melbourne for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March. As well as still being plenty quick enough to rattle Alonso, with technical nous to help Honda ingratiate itself back into F1 after six years away, he’s a well-mannered and articulate role model for up-and-coming youngsters.
Magnussen, too, is an engaging fellow who’s done a fine job in his maiden season at the top level. Sure, he’s been outqualified 10-9 by Button and finished three places behind him in the points table, but he deserves to not be left on the F1 scrap heap. He’ll learn a lot from Honda and from Alonso, of course, so that he’s ready to resume racing when a vacancy presents itself.
Team harmony appears to have been restored, with Alonso getting his wish to have Button in the other car, and Button pleased that Magnussen is still involved. As well as that, team boss Ron Dennis and Alonso, who threw his toys out of the McLaren pram in 2007 after finding himself matched by rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton, are all smiles again. Time will tell if it all gels this time round.
For now, we have the tantalising prospect of Alonso versus Button in 2015. If you think the Spaniard will run away with it, you’d do well to remember that across the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons (58 races) Button outscored his then-McLaren team-mate Hamilton 672 points to 657.
Should be good…