“Jenson Button… WINS! GET IN THERE!”
So in a week where Felipe Massa decided to hang up the gloves, just a few days later, McLaren gave us their donation into the silly season fund by announcing their 2017 Driver Line-Up early as Stoffel Vandoorne was announced alongside mainstay Fernando Alonso… Who apparently isn’t retiring. There’s a joke from a previous Drebrief episode in there somewhere.
And in what was ultimately a bizarre situation, Jenson Button isn’t really retiring, and instead, taking a sabbatical from F1 after 17 consecutive seasons. By the time we get to Abu Dhabi, he’ll be just the third man in the 300 races club, alongside Rubens Barrichello and the great Michael Schumacher. It’s the “Mika Hakkinen” Sabbatical all over again!
And what makes this decision all the crazier is McLaren’s recent driver history, which, safe to say, has been pretty erratic, to say the least. Until this season, this was the first time McLaren had retained the same driver line-up since 2012. Since Lewis Hamilton’s departure, Sergio Perez’s relative inexperience came back to bite him, and Kevin Magnussen was collateral damage for Fernando hitting the free agency after five years without a title in red.
Now Nando is clearly going to get a team built around him again for better or worse, and the team had pretty much reached the point of no return with Stoffel Vandoorne. As talented a “junior” driver we’ve seen since maybe Nico Hulkenberg, Stoffel will be just past his 25th birthday by the time he makes his full debut, and this is a guy who probably should have been in F1 immediately after his rookie GP2 season in 2014; where he finished 2nd overall, winning three feature races, and only losing out to far more experienced Jolyon Palmer… And we all know how that’s worked out at Renault.
McLaren having a loaded den of