274 starts in 15 seasons with 15 wins, 50 podiums and a World Championship make Jenson Button the most experienced driver in Formula One today. Despite there being little left for the 35 year old Brit to prove, F1’s elder statesman isn’t ready to hang up his helmet just yet.
Now in his sixth season with McLaren, Jenson has gone since 2012 with out a win as McLaren has gone from perennial championship contender to disappointing also ran. The early boom times with the team have now faded and the outfit seems mired in its disastrous marriage to Honda. Possibly feeling his loyalty has gone unrewarded Button is ready to move on and get off the Honda ship before it sinks. With Mercedes off the table and Red Bull struggling where can Jenson go?
Most in the Formula One paddock are now certain that Valtteri Bottas is Ferrari bound to replace Kimi Raikkonen, which leaves his current team Williams as the top team with a known vacancy for 2016. Initial speculation had Felipe Nasr’s name on the seat, but he announced a contract extension with Sauber yesterday.
Williams just happens to be the team that gave Jenson his big break when he drove for them for the 2000 season.
Many are now speculating and hoping for a fairy tale reunion between the 2009 champ and the house that Sir Frank Williams built. It is a salivating proposition – a grand champion returning to a legendary team just in time to finally bring them both back to the top of the grid.
It makes good sense too. In pairing Button with Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa, Williams would have the most experienced lineup on the 2016 grid. Though not as glamorous a duo as some others, a combined 26 victories, 90 podiums and 24 poles would give Rob Smedley and Claire Williams the most equal pairing on the grid and one of the strongest. Considering the personalities of Jenson and Felipe and it would likely be the nicest too, a true fan favorite that could give great feedback to the engineers and push one another on as each man looks for F1 redemption.
It makes even better financial sense – a British champion coming to a British team for one last shot at glory. It’s an easy sell to any sponsor and a perfect way for Williams to capitalize on the good momentum they have and the millions Ferrari have possibly already given them for Bottas.
There’s just one catch, McLaren can block it.
The team has an option on his services for next year. Conflicting reports have had McLaren say he will be there, while Jenson has said nothing is locked in yet. If Jenson tries to go to Williams, McLaren can simply take up the option and he’ll be stuck with yet another season of trundling around the back of the field.
But with Stoffel Vandoorne lighting up GP2 and young Kevin Magnussen, a favorite of Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier in the wings, would they really try to stop Jenson from going? Six seasons, eight wins and 33 podiums is a lot to give a team only to be rewarded with the current mess McLaren currently finds itself in.
Maybe it’s finally time they let Jenson go.