Jenson Button could be set to end his Formula One career at the end of the season with an announcement on his future expected as early as this week’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The 2009 world champion, 35, is in the midst of his worst-ever season in the sport with McLaren’s Honda partnership having long since descended into a farce.
Button has finished in the points in just two of the 13 races this season and retired from Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix with a gearbox problem.
Button and his beleaguered McLaren team – who endured their fourth double retirement of the season in Singapore after Fernando Alonso also suffered a gearbox failure – will now head to Honda’s home race in Japan where a decision on their line-up for 2016 could be revealed.
McLaren have an option on Button for next season, but that expires at the end of this month. It is reported that talks with the team’s boss Ron Dennis over extending his grand prix career into a 17th campaign have stalled. Reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, who moved sideways after one season after the arrival of Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, the runaway GP2 championship leader, are both contenders for Button’s seat. They would both be vastly cheaper than the Briton, too.
Button, whose wife Jessica is Japanese, regards Sunday’s race in Suzuka as a home event.
He has been entered for 281 races in his career – a record for a British driver and a total which makes him far and away the most experienced driver involved in Formula One this season. He has won 15 races since making his F1 debut in 2000.
Button, meanwhile, accused Pastor Maldonado of trying to put him “into the grandstands” after the pair collided at the Singapore race.
Button was running in 10th when he crashed into the back of the error-prone Lotus driver and lost part of his front wing in the race. He said over the team radio: “I should have known he was mental.”
Talking after the race, Button added: “I drove into the back of him so you could say it was my fault, but he did not accelerate out of the corner which was very strange. The corner before that he just drove me off the circuit. If there was a brick wall I would have been in it. The boy has not changed and he won’t ever change.
“On the entry to the corner he was was trying to put me into the grandstands and gave me no room under braking, which is just common sense.”
Button was then forced to retire with a gearbox failure and after Fernando Alonso parked his McLaren earlier in the race, also with a gearbox problem, it meant the British team, who had been hopeful of a strong weekend in Singapore, racked up yet another double retirement –their fourth of a dire campaign.
“It was a difficult weekend,” Button, who has just six points from 13 races, said. “I thought we would be more competitive but we weren’t. The team will get their heads down in Japan. It will obviously be another difficult weekend but we will do our best.
“You have to stay positive, or else what is the other option? There are a lot of people working hard in this team and they will do their best and they will get there in the end. It is just a matter of time.”
Asked about the spectator who invaded the track, Button added with a wry smile: “Some would say that is safer than some of the drivers.”