Following months of speculation, McLaren have confirmed that Fernando Alonso will return to the team, with Jenson Button retained for another Formula 1 season.
The announcement was made at a special media briefing at McLaren’s Woking headquarters.
It was well-known that Fernando Alonso will be back racing for McLaren after five difficult and frustration seasons with Scuderia Ferrari. But a decision on his team-mate meant a delay to the announcement on the 2015 line-up.
Debate raged within the team over whether the 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button’s greater experience should be preferred to rookie Kevin Magnussen’s longer-term potential.
A decision on the final driver line-up had been anticipated ahead of the season-finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but an announcement was twice delayed as agreement failed to materialise at boardroom level.
Button, 34, who recently described McLaren’s indecision over its 2015 driver line-up as “strange”, was ultimately given chance to prolong his career.
The decision means Magnussen, 22, will be left without a race seat in Formula 1 next year, but the Woking team said he would be retained as a reserve, test driver.
Alonso said the discussion for him to return to McLaren began over a year ago. “Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest,” he said.
“But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula One scene for so long.”
Alonso added he is excited to be following the footsteps of Ayrton Senna, who won all three of his world championships in a McLaren-Honda.
“I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference,” he said.
“I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with.
“That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula One, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula One world championship.”
McLaren will therefore join Ferrari in having world champions in both their cars next year. “As regards drivers, McLaren’s policy has always been to assemble the strongest line-up possible,” said Ron Dennis, “and in Fernando and Jenson I firmly believe that is exactly what we have.”
“I can safely say that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula One team,” Dennis added.
“Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go,” said Jenson Button.
“I am also very glad that Kevin will remain part of the team. He is a very quick driver and a really nice guy.
“Looking forward, I know the Honda guys well, having driven Formula 1 cars powered by their engines from 2003 to 2008.
“I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for them, and promise to give 100 per cent to make their partnership with McLaren a success.
“Last but far from least, I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate. I am sure we will work extremely well together.”
McLaren chairman Ron Dennis said the chance to pair proven world champions Alonso and Button was too good an opportunity to pass up.
“Fernando and Jenson have started a combined total of precisely 500 grands prix between them – a mighty aggregate – and have won 47 of them,” he said.
“I can safely say, therefore, that we now have by an order of magnitude the best driver line-up of any current Formula 1 team.
“I want to thank and pay tribute to Kevin, who has done a great job this season and will continue to be an integral part of our team.
“He will be our test, reserve and third driver, and remains an excellent prospect for the future.”
So an exciting line-up in the shape of two champions. Fernando Alonso returns to the team following that fallout over Spygate back in 2007 and it will be fascinating to see how the double world champion can get along with Ron Dennis now.
As for Jenson Button, it seems the amount of support on social media has convince the McLaren team to retain him for another chance in Formula 1. Button has still got the drive to succeed and it’s going to be exciting to see how he will fare against Alonso.
But it’s a tough blow for Kevin Magnussen. After showing so much promising in his debut season, Magnussen has been sidelined to a test, reserved driver. Can he make a return to Formula 1 in the near future? Perhaps but a certain GP2 star is making waves and could take over, so Keven needs to watch out for Stoffel Vandoorne…