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Button, Alonso To Drive For McLaren In 2015

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 12 2014

All the conjecture surrounding Jenson Button’s impending exit from McLaren and the FIA Formula One World Championship turned out to be complete rubbish.

Button will contest his sixth season with McLaren in 2015 alongside Fernando Alonso, who rejoins the team after five seasons with Scuderia Ferrari. The pairing of Alonso and Button _ who have won a combined three World Driving Championships _ has relegated Kevin Magnussen to the team’s test and reserve driver. Magnussen, 22 and son of former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, spent his rookie season in 2014 as Button’s fulltime teammate.

McLaren’s 2015 lineup was confirmed by Ron Dennis, McLaren Group chairman/CEO, at the team’s headquarters in Woking, England, on Thursday. McLaren will switch from Mercedes to Honda power in 2015 as the Japanese manufacturer returns to F1 in a works capacity.

“McLaren’s policy has always been to assemble the strongest lineup possible, and in Fernando and Jenson I firmly believe that is exactly what we have,” Dennis said. “We signed Fernando a little while ago, but we decided not to announce the fact until we had also re-signed Jenson as his teammate.

“For many reasons our negotiations with Jenson took quite a long time, but now that they have been concluded, we are confident that our collaboration with him will continue to thrive in the future every bit as well as it has in the past. Make no mistake about it, Jenson is 100 percent committed to McLaren/Honda, to Formula One and to winning.”

Alonso’s move to McLaren was set into motion when four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany announced in early October that he would be leaving Infiniti Red Bull Racing at season’s end, reportedly for Ferrari. The Scuderia confirmed Vettel’s hiring under a three-year contract last month, turning the Silly Season spotlight on Alonso, a native of Spain whom Dennis praised as a “class act.”

“Fernando has started 234 grands prix, has converted 32 of those starts to victories, has stood on a grand prix podium 97 times and has won the Drivers’ World Championship not once but twice,” Dennis said. “He is 33 _ which for an athlete as physically fit as he is _ constitutes a Formula One driver’s professional prime of life.

“Moreover, he is old enough to be experienced and expert, yet young enough to be enthusiastic and energetic. I therefore firmly believe he will deploy those four E’s _ experience, expertise, enthusiasm and energy _ to drive forward McLaren/Honda’s on-track success next season and for quite a few seasons to come.” Details of Alonso’s contract were not disclosed.

World Champion in 2005-06 with Renault, Alonso drove for McLaren in 2007 as teammate to Englishman Lewis Hamilton. Alonso posted 11 victories during his tenure with Ferrari, finishing second in the World Championship three times. Alonso was winless and finished sixth in the 2014 point standings topped by Hamilton, the two-time/reigning World Champion now driving for Mercedes AMG.

“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,” Alonso told the F1 website. “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 One scene for so long.

“McLaren/Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations and there is a very solid future, with confidence, ahead.

“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 percent effort to help make it exactly that.”

The 2009 World Champion with Brawn Racing, Button has logged eight of his career 15 F1 wins with McLaren, including a second-place point finish in 2011. Button, who has made 266 career F1 starts, will mark his 16th season in 2015. Button out-qualified Magnussen by a single race, 10-9, in 2014 but scored twice as many points as the Danish driver in finishing eighth in the final standings.

“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,” said Button, a native of Great Britain who drove for Honda’s works team earlier in his F1 career.

“I admired Ayrton Senna enormously, but, for me, it was the exploits of his McLaren/Honda teammate Alain Prost that inspired me most as a boy,” said Button, who will turn 35 on Jan. 19. “The way he stroked those beautifully brutal red-and-white cars to grand prix wins and world championships was to my mind poetry in motion, and I have tried to emulate his driving style ever since.

“Being a part of the new-look McLaren/Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go. I am also very glad that Kevin will remain part of the team. He is a very quick driver and a really nice guy.

“Looking forward, I know the Honda guys well, having driven Formula One cars powered by their engines from 2003 to 2008. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and promise to give 100 percent to make their partnership with McLaren a success.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 12 2014
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