jenson button retires

Jenson Button: "I won't be racing in F1 in 2017"

Above: McLaren signs plucky veteran Jenson Button as a reserve driver for next year.

Above: McLaren signs plucky veteran Jenson Button as a reserve driver for next year.

Jenson Button has announced he will not be driving alongside Fernando Alonso next year explaining that he needed a break from the sport to which he has dedicated his entire adult life.

Jenson Button:

"I've been a Formula 1 driver since I was 19 years old, so this is something that I needed for myself. I need to feel refreshed, I need to go out and do things that I haven't been able to do in that time.
"I also want to spend more time with my friends, and obviously my family. And maybe there'll be something else I race in next year that is a bit more fun, less pressure. 
"To be clear, I'm very definitely not retiring. 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."

Reminiscent of the Mika Hakkinen sabbatical in 2002 after which he never returned, McLaren and Button have announced that he will stay with the team as an ambassador ready to jump into the car "if needed". Although Ron Dennis has denied it, the 2018 contract clause does seem to be insurance for the team if Fernando Alonso retires or moves to another team.

Despite all of the stipulations, it's clear that it will take a series of unfortunate events before Button returns to the cockpit of an F1 car during a race weekend after this season.

As was widely expected, McLaren youngster and former GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will be promoted into the senior team.

Stoffel Vandoorne:

"I've signed loads of autographs in my career, but, when I inked my signature on my McLaren-Honda contract today, it's safe to say I had an exceptionally special feeling as I picked up my pen to do so.

"It's an enormous honour to become a McLaren-Honda race driver, and I promise to work as hard as any Formula 1 driver ever has before."

Vandoorne stepped in for Fernando Alonso in Bahrain earlier this season and scored the team's first points in the modern McLaren Honda-era. It could have been that moment that Button decided Formula 1 and McLaren especially was ready for some fresh blood, with negotiations in Belgium last weekend focusing on defining his commitments off the track moreso than on it.

Button will go down as another one of the sport's true gentlemen, a fierce competitor on the track yet extremely well-liked and respected by his fellow drivers and his adoring fans.

Having driven alongside and held his own against the likes of Jacques Villeneuve, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and winning the drivers' title in 2009, coming 2nd in 2011 and 3rd in 2004 there can be no doubting his exceptional ability and quality of character.