MCLAREN ACE TO RETIRE? Will veteran F1 driver exit the sport in 2016? Image: AP / Shizuo Kambayashi
Suzuka, Japan - McLaren hinted on Friday (September 25) that Jenson Button was planning to end his Formula 1 career but said it hoped to persuade him to stay in 2016.
McLaren''s managing director Jonathan Neale told reporters after a wet day of practice at the Japanese GP: "Jenson is a fantastic guy, a world champion and a big part of our family at Honda and McLaren for six seasons.
"We are contracted with him, we want him to stay and we like him very much. But if your driver doesn't really want to be in the seat, then we have to respect that."
Button's future has become a hot topic in the F1 paddock, with mounting speculation earlier in the week that he was planning an announcement at his favourite circuit.
Instead, the 35-year-old told reporters that they would have to wait for news.
As it happened: 2015 Japanese GP - 2nd practice
Neale noted that had come as something of an anti-climax for the media but the team wanted to continue discussions with Button.
Former champions McLaren, in a new partnership with Honda, have had an abject season with its engine unreliable and no match for dominant Mercedes.
Both Button and team mate Fernando Alonso have collected multiple penalties due to repeated engine problems and the Briton has scored just six points in 13 races.
Button spoke on Thursday about how the 'joy' of competing was missing.
He said: "I don't think any driver has joy when they are not fighting for victories. I don't like finishing 14th, I don't like finishing 10th. That's not what gives me joy and excites me.
"But there are so many other things that if they work in your favour or you see a future, there's the possibility of joy coming back."