LONDON (Reuters) - McLaren could put a spring in Jenson Button’s step, or bring down the curtain on the 2009 world champion’s Formula One career, on Thursday when they are expected to announce their 2015 driver lineup.
The team, who are starting a new partnership with Honda and have yet to announce a title sponsor, called a news conference at their Woking headquarters for “an important and exclusive media event”.
No details were given, and McLaren gave no further indications when contacted, but the move was interpreted by an expectant media as evidence a driver decision had been reached at last after a board meeting last week ended without news.
Button’s future has been the big question in the sport for months, with the 34-year-old Briton out of contract and McLaren the only team yet to name their drivers.
One is sure to be Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso, already replaced at Ferrari by four times titleholder Sebastian Vettel but whose return has yet to be confirmed officially by McLaren despite being an open secret.
The other looks a straight choice between Button, the sport’s most experienced current driver, and Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen, who formed this year’s pairing.
Magnussen, 22, has youth and promise on his side but Button delivered more on the track this season and is keen to stay at a team that has not won a race since his last victory in Brazil in 2012 and is undergoing a major overhaul.
McLaren group head Ron Dennis said last month that the choice would be made on a “clinical and emotionless analysis of the options”.
But there has been plenty of emotion from fans and followers of both drivers, with Button sparking a lively reaction from an audience of motorsport insiders when he addressed the subject at last Sunday’s Autosport awards in London.
“Do any of you think I should be racing in F1 next year?” the Briton asked, to raucous cheers of support, before adding that it was a ‘strange situation’ to be in.
“I’ve got a new Japanese (mobile) number so that might be why I haven’t heard anything,” joked the winner of 15 races, eight with McLaren.
“If it was my first year in F1 it would be a lot more difficult, but I’ve had an amazing career in Formula One. To win a world championship and achieve what I’ve achieved has been an amazing experience.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris