Jenson Button, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2016

Button to step down from race seat at end of 2016

2016 Italian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Jenson Button has confirmed he will not race in Formula One next season – but he could return in 2018.

The McLaren driver confirmed he has signed a new two-year deal with the team as an ambassador next year but has an option to race for them the year after.

Jenson Button, Williams, Interlagos, 2000
Jenson Button’s Formula One career
Button made his Formula One debut with Williams in 2000. He scored his first grand prix victory at the Hungaroring in 2006 and claimed the world championship in 2009 while driving for Brawn. He joined McLaren the year after.

The announcement clears the way for McLaren to promote Stoffel Vandoorne to the team’s race line-up alongside Fernando Alonso next year.

Button said he is “massively excited” about his new role. “I love McLaren-Honda – I firmly believe it’s made up of the best bunch of people I’ve ever worked with – and I have no intention of ever driving for another Formula One team.”

“To be clear, I’m very definitely not retiring,” he added. “I’m contracted for both 2017 and 2018, I intend to work hard on car-development, and I’m sure I’ll get behind the wheel of the new car at some point.”

McLaren executive director Ron Dennis paid tribute to Button. “He’s been superb both on and off the track and, as we’re seeing this season, he remains superb – not only fast and fit but also experienced and expert”.

“He’ll start his 298th Grand Prix tomorrow. As such, he’s the most experienced driver on the grid.”

“Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He’ll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.

“On behalf of all at McLaren-Honda, I want to say how thrilled we are that Jenson has extended his contractual relationship with us. Moreover, I’m absolutely certain that the depth of his experience and the currency of his expertise will give us an advantage over our opposition next season.”

See the updated list of 2017 F1 drivers and teams

2016 Italian Grand Prix

Browse all Italian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

123 comments on “Button to step down from race seat at end of 2016”

  1. Like I’ve often said, the sign of a great Formula 1 driver is being able to decide when you stop racing in the series on your own terms.

    Congratulations on a great career, Jenson.

    1. Its not on your own terms just because you say so in a press conference

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        3rd September 2016, 15:51

        Williams said they wanted him so it is – just not necessarily from McLaren.

    2. i love how everyone here in the comments congratulates Jenson for a great career and for retiring on his own terms, when the article clearly states: “To be clear, I’m very definitely not retiring,” . Also, this seems more of a forced move than anything he’d wholeheartedly chosen.

      I’m not saying he’s not actually retiring, because i do believe he won’t race again in 2018 like he says, but the world of Formula 1 press conferences is a very weird place: not only you have to read between the lines, but in many cases you need to apply the exact opposite of the press conference to get the right message.

  2. Yes! Thank you! Vandoorne in!

  3. He had one hell of a run one of my favorite drivers of all time. Shame he finished in an uncompetitive car. But at least Stoffle might be in next year!

  4. It’s about time. With the exception of the 2009 championship, which still seems suspect to many, was this guy really that good?

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      3rd September 2016, 15:50

      He was one of a few not blown away by Alonso as a team mate..

        1. that’s simply wrong

          1. Didnt watch 2010 or 2011 then?

    2. I take it that you didn’t watch F1 in 2004, 2006 or 2011.

    3. Realistically not quite on Hamilton or Alonso’s level, maybe not even Vettels. But lets not forget at times he genuinely beat Hamilton and Alonso. Not just by being consistent and reliable, but at times just genuinely faster. He’s the only driver to beat Hamilton in a season. I don’t think he’d make my top 10 of all time list, in fact probably not even the top 20. But on the current grid I’d probably rank him about 6th. With a bit of perspective, that’s pretty good.

      And in mixed conditions he often gave truly special drives, though that gentle driving cost him outright pace in the dry.

      1. ” He’s the only driver to beat Hamilton in a season”

        This statement is wrong. Hamilton beat himself that season. He had more poles and more fastest laps than Jenson in 2011, and equaled him on race wins – in what was arguably his worst year, and Jenson’s best. Also, in the races that both cars finished, Lewis finished ahead more than Jenson. It is a misrepresentation of the facts to say Jenson beat Lewis in 2011; even if that is what the points tally show.

        1. Over the three seasons Button partnered Hamilton JB out scored him. Points count more than wins or poles. That’s what the records are based on.

          1. Please, not that 3 years long season non-sense again. It has never existed in the history of the sport.

          2. Oh dear. This again about “outscoring”. Points count over a season. Not three. Each season a driver starts with 0 points so to make it seem as though Jenson outscored Lewis in all three seasons when in fact he only did so in one is the lamest trick in the book.

        2. No my statement is correct, the drivers championship for 2011 had Button ahead of Hamilton, over the season Button beat Hamilton on points which is how a drivers championship is measured. Your statement that Hamilton beat himself is hyperbole, mine was fact.

          And I’m not using some twisted, made up ‘over 3 seasons’ argument, but plain simple fact is Button beat Hamilton in 2011.

          1. @philipgb While the statement may be correct in terms of points, Button was in no way faster than Hamilton that year nor any of the other years they were team mates.

            Points only show who scored more points, They don’t tell the circumstances behind why driver x outscored driver y. Unreliability, Bad luck, Silly accidents & penalty’s all play a role in that & this is why teams will always look beyond the points standings when evaluating driver performances.

            For example you can say that in 2015 Kvyat beat Ricciardo as Kvyat had more points, However can you realistically say that Kvyat was faster than Ricciardo or that he was/is a better driver than Ricciardo?

          2. it wasn’t a true reflection of form though, it was because Ham crashed out a lot and had bad reliability. If you look at that season in detail you will realise for yourself

          3. @gt-racer I’m not sure any driver has ever been faster than Hamilton consistently, maybe in the occasional race but not over a season.

            But Hamiltons all or nothing approach in 2011 was flawed, and he let Button beat him because of it. When 2012 started that was when Hamilton became a more complete driver and he destroyed Button that year much more than the points suggested. But 2011 was Buttons year, he gave some truly great races, he may not have been quicker, but he was better.

        3. Peppermint-Lemon (@)
          3rd September 2016, 17:14

          “Hamilton beat himself that season”

          What sort of comment is that lol? Button BEAT him that year and overall during their 3-yr period together.

          You’re clearly in denial.

          1. That argument doesn’t work and is silly. Over three years, Button was ahead in points only in 2011. Even in 2011 both had the same number of wins. Other two years Button lost to LH on points. So 2 – 1 in favour of LH.

          2. Lewis “beat” himself due to crashes and penalties incurred himself. As said earlier, in the races that both cars finished, Lewis came out on top more often than Jenson. This is a true representation of their respective abilities.

            It is like Rosberg claiming he “beat” Lewis earlier on this season due to Lewis’s contact with other drivers, engine reliability issues and penalties. Only someone with blinders on would claim otherwise.

          3. I’m fascinated by the psychology of humans. Do you really believe that Jenson outperformed Lewis? I don’t think you do, you just want to believe it, or you’re just misinformed

          4. Because F1 is a mechanical sport that “outscoring” statistic has to be put into perspective for a more accurate reflection on their head to head performances that takes out reliability and accidents etc. For instance, Hamilton in 2012 alone lost two victories in Abu Dhabi and Singapore whereas Button never retired from the lead of a race. In a two car finish between 2010-2012, Hamilton finished ahead 23 vs 10 times. That generally states that all things being equal Hamilton had the beating of Button.
            In those 33 races that both cars saw the chequered flag between 2010-2012, Hamilton scored-
            545 points.
            Button Scored- 483 points.

          5. @kbdavies

            Hamilton was all or nothing in 2011. Sometimes it was jaw dropping like China, or the pole in Korea. But that putting everything on the line approach threw away some races as well. You can’t just afford credit when it pays off but then let him off the hook when it doesn’t. It was a great approach for delivering some exceptional races, but a poor approach for fighting for a drivers championship position.

            2012 though Hamilton came back with the right mindset, the teams errors and reliability robbed him of so many points, way more than Button lost which is why the ‘3 season tally’ is a flawed argument. But 2011 Button simply drove a better season.

        4. Results count, not what ifs.

          1. Exactly what coefficient said, have we awarded championships now to the guy who was the fastest but couldn’t ever finish? There’s been plenty of fast and aggressive drivers but you have to FINISH to score points. And how does saying another driver could compete with Lewis detract even the SLIGHTEST from how good he is as a driver? Or are you so upset that not everyone worships LH and if we think he is a talented driver but a complete ass of a human you have to attack any comment as if we attacked him personally and you run his PR firm. The FACT is in terms of scoring points, you know the ONLY thing the FIA gives a turd about, JB beat him. Doesn’t say who was faster, who qualified best, who won more, who had the hottest girl, who had the best hair; it was PURELY who had the most points which is how you win.

        5. All this crap about Hamilton not being beaten by Button in 2011 is total nonsense! Button not only beat Hamilton in 2011, but he also beat everyone else on the grid that year bar Vettel – including Alonso!

          I constantly see all these excuses that he only beat Hamilton cause Hamilton crashed more etc. So, in other words, BUTTON DROVE BETTER THAN HAMILTON i.e. he beat Hamilton. Honestly, the defence that Button didn’t really beat Hamilton in 2011 because Hamilton drove worse than Button is the definition of ridiculous.

          We also hear that Hamilton just had a bad year and besides, he still won the same number of races as Button. We then also hear the line that Hamilton destroyed Button in 2012.

          Well, I’m sorry, but Button beat himself in 2012 because he drove badly. And after all, he won the same number of races as Hamilton…sound familiar???

          Look, at the end of the day, they were evenly matched in 2010, Button was better in 2011 and Hamilton was better in 2012.

          Let’s all not forget that whatever you think, Button is the most experienced driver on the grid and one of the most experienced of all time, is a world champion, and is the ONLY driver in history to ever score more points in the same car as Hamilton and Alonso.

          He is still one of the very finest drivers on the planet and F1 will be worse off without him. I just can’t believe he’s not driving next year, considering the options he had. Gutted!

          1. By the same standards one could say Massa beat Hamilton in 2008 with two more wins and Rosberg beat Hamilton in 2014 with more poles. Obviously any Hamilton fan would rightly say it is ridiculous.

            These same fans say Hamilton beat Alonso in 2007, despite being equal on points, because of the best results rule.

            So Button deserves a lot of credit for his performance against two all-time greats – Hamilton and Alonso. And yes, Jenson beat Lewis in 2011

            Points are the only metric. You can argue, in any sport, that a player/team didn’t deserve to score more points than its rival, but you can’t deny it did beat its rival.

      2. Jonathan Parkin
        3rd September 2016, 20:33

        He is a better driver than Vettel. All of Seb’s wins aside from three came from the front row and a large proportion followed the same boring MO. Get a good start and zoom into the distance. Jenson on the other hand won his first GP from 14th on the grid and his Canadian GP win will be remembered forever

        1. The fact that Button started so few races from the front row counts against him and is a clear reason to say he is not as good a driver as Vettel.

          1. Jonathan Parkin
            4th September 2016, 5:01

            But you have to agree that it is an unavoidable fact that Vettel can only win a race one way, as a large majority of his wins have come from the same method. Also during his Red Bull days he was told several times not to go for fastest lap by his slightly stressed engineer which tells me two things 1) Either RB didn’t want someone to know the true pace of the car or 2) They were afraid that SV would run it off the road like Canada 2011. Also about that race SV said afterwards the reason he lost was he let Button get too close seemingly confirming that he isn’t as good in a high pressure situation

          2. They didn’t want him setting fast laps as there wasn’t a need to, especially with Pirelli tyres that discourage pushing, and finite numbers of engines and gearboxes. Canada 2011 came after back to back races that SV won where other drivers were close with Vettel in high pressure situations, while Button made even more errors late in the Chinese Grand Prix that year.

            Winning races mostly from the front row isn’t a factor to be used to say a driver is inferior. Not at least when one of them took more poles in a competitive year like 2010, than the other took in their entire career.

    4. @bukester For that you need to have a better understanding of the sport!

    5. Button is underrated.

      1. He is. But he is also overrated. Is that even possible? Only for Button it seems. He is certainly better than Webber or Massa, but his lack of qualifying prowess but him below drivers like Rosberg. And overall, he is certainly not on the same level of Lewis, Alonso, Vettel or even Kimi.

        I mean, he is being trounced by Alonso in qualifying – a driver not known for his qualifying abilities.

        1. Below Rosberg and Kimi? At least Button was able to challenge Hamilton and wasn’t destroyed by Alonso like Kimi in 2014.

    6. Duncan Snowden
      3rd September 2016, 18:37

      You don’t hang around in F1 for that long if you aren’t. He’s been desperately unlucky over his career in repeatedly finding himself in uncompetitive cars. Not unlike his current team-mate in fact, only even more so. People forget – or don’t know – that back around the turn of the century he was seen as a definite future champion, the Next Big Thing, in much the same light as Kimi, Seb, Lewis, and now Max have been in their turn. (Oddly, I don’t ever remember that with Fernando. He kind of appeared out of nowhere as far as I recall.) I suppose those predictions turned out to be technically correct, but I don’t think anyone making them expected it to take until 2009, and only happen once. It just never seemed to work out for him, except that one year with Brawn.

      As with Felipe, it’ll be sad to see him go, but it has to happen sometime I suppose. It’d be nice to think he could haul the McLaren on to the podium one last time before the end of the season, but that’s going to take some spectacular luck. Story of his career, really.

  5. petebaldwin (@)
    3rd September 2016, 15:49

    Gutted he’ll be missing but did think a while ago that he doesn’t have much to gain by joining Williams. He’s wouldn’t be fighting for wins with them…

    Congrats Jenson in a brilliant career!

  6. Oh no. :( I really wanted to see him at Williams. Bottas needs a strong team mate so that we can evaluate him better (Maldonado and old Massa haven’t been that high benchmarks after all)

    Button easily one of the most sympathetic drivers on the grid. I will miss him.

  7. Great driver. A very likeable guy off track and underrated in my opinion. Glad he won a WDC.

    1. Me 2!

    2. Underrated? Hes one of the most popular drivers despite rarely having anything to back it up with apart from being polite in interviews.

      1. Just for reference, check some of the bizarre comments above to gauge how some people do underrate Button and scorn his achievements. Unbelievable, really.

        One of the few drivers to make me excited about F1 again. Funny, genuine, knowledgeable, passionate and likeable.

        A great driver who has left his mark on the sport. He’s always faired well against some impressive team mates. He’s firmly beaten others. If some of his machinery had been as competitive as it should have been, he had (still has) the talent to achieve much, much more. People mention Alonso’s uncanny ability to be in the wrong car at the wrong time, but I think Jenson has him beaten on this!

        A great career. And it’s been a great deal of fun watching. Thanks Jenson!

      2. @rethla Jenson clearly wasn’t as blisteringly quick as Lewis, and hasn’t been the best qualifier. But this is a driver who kept pace with Schumacher and overtook Alonso while holding his helmet on and driving one handed for 20 laps. This is a driver who was so much quicker than Hamilton at Spa that Hamilton threw a fit and tweeted team telemetry to try and justify why he got beaten. This is a guy who went from dead last at half distance to win a race with some of the most ballsy overtaking you’d ever want to see.

        He wasn’t the perfect bulletproof machine that some of the very greatest were; confidence lapped at him from time to time. But to say he’d got nothing to offer F1 apart from polite interviews indicates a desire to ignore the reality, or refusing to recognise the success.

        He’s a World Champion for a reason, not just because he lucked into a great car. Anyone saying that about 2009 clearly wasn’t watching and paying attention to what that team, and its two drivers, had to do to win, and it was champion material all year long, including the wobbles and adversity.

  8. At least. 5 years to late.

    1. He won Brazil 2012, less than 4 years ago; I wonder what your criterium is.

      1. @bosyber
        Nigel Mansell won the last race in 1994, does that mean he wasn’t past his prime back then?
        2012 was an extremely weak season for Button. He did win the first race on merit and the last one under more complicated circumstances.
        However, the rest of his season was rather forgettable, and he downright diasppeared from the championship from round 3 (Bahrain) to round 9 (GB), scoring only 7 points with a car that was still podium material in Lewis’s hands (pole position in Spain before being disqualified, race win in Canada, en route to a P3 or P4 finish in Valencia before colliding with Maldonado).
        Button recovered after that, but he continued to be clearly outperformed by Hamilton, whose performance was masked by a string of technical failures and collisions for which he was not to blame that put him out of contention for the world championship (Germany: puncture while fighting for the podium places; Belgium: the famous carnage at the start; Singapore: a gear box failure while leading the race; Abu Dhabi: loss of fuel pressure while leading the race; Brazil: collision with Hülkenberg while leading the race).
        In the end, Button did finish the championship on Lewis’s tails and with a race win, but this was by no means representative for their respective performances.

        1. nase, it has to be said that Button was suffering from a loss of power due to a cracked exhaust in the 2012 Bahrain GP and was eventually withdrawn from the race by the team, so his performance in that race wasn’t entirely of his own making.

          1. I guess we’ll also not mention that Button was OVER 55 seconds ahead of Hamilton in the 2012 Brazilian race before the safety car and catching Hamilton fast before Hamilton crashed out.

            Whatever you do, don’t mention that!

          2. Blazz, I think Nick is technically correct that Button was 55 or so seconds in front of Hamilton. This though was largely due to the fact that both he and Hulkenberg were the only 2 drivers to not to pit for intermediate tyres when rain started to fall. The rain eased up, and so all those on intermediates had t pit *again*, leaving Hulkenberg and Button well clear of the field.

            Hulkenberg also caught and passed Button when they were ahead of the field. The safety car happened and the field was bunched up again.

        2. This. I think Button’s 2012 season was probably his worst at Mclaren.

      2. Ok …..4 years to late. ,!!!!