Belfast Telegraph

Button seizes opportunity to make his F1 return at Monaco

 

By Philip Duncan

Jenson Button took just two minutes of persuading to end his Formula One hiatus in order to star at the most famous circuit on the Formula One calendar.

Button, who treated last year's concluding race in Abu Dhabi as the end of his world championship winning career, will be back in a grand prix car at next month's Monaco Grand Prix after he answered McLaren's call to replace Fernando Alonso.

The call came from Eric Boullier, the team's racing director, last week after Alonso accepted the challenge of crossing the Atlantic to take part in the Indianapolis 500 which is staged on the same day as the Monte Carlo race.

"It started a week ago with a couple of texts," said Boullier.

"The phone call was maybe two minutes. It was a very short discussion and very easy. His first reaction was 'great, I am so excited'.

"He has a contract with us, but you could feel his excitement over the phone was real, and I am happy that he would be part of this adventure.

"Jenson was our choice from day one. He has been racing all his life, and I guess anyone who would stop doing it would miss it, so I am not surprised he said yes."

In truth, the 37-year-old, who is still paid a hefty sum - understood to be in the region of £5million a year - by McLaren in his role as their ambassador, probably had little choice.

Button has not driven the new McLaren and will, somewhat surprisingly, swerve the opportunity to get his first taste of track action at next week's two-day test here in Bahrain.

There was also the option to get Button back behind the wheel in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix - the race preceding Monaco - but both parties decided against the move.

It means Button will be thrust back into the spotlight on the Thursday morning at the tight and unique surroundings of the Monte Carlo street circuit where there is no margin for error.

"There was a choice, and the obvious choice by far was Jenson, and the wish to have Jenson was strong enough," Boullier added.

"He is very talented, a world champion, and he has a long experience in Formula One and I can guarantee you by lap 10 of first practice in Monaco he will be okay."

Button has competed in 305 grands prix - third only to Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher in the all-time list - and won 15 races. His greatest moment came when he crossed the line in fifth in Brazil to secure his only world championship with Brawn nearly eight years ago.

The Englishman, who spent seven seasons with McLaren and partnered Lewis Hamilton for three of them, added: "I'm thrilled to be making a one-off return to Formula One, and I couldn't think of a better place to make that return than my adopted home grand prix of Monaco.

"I'm supremely fit, having done a lot of triathlon training recently, so I have no worries on that score. And it'll be nice to say 'hi' to all my old Formula One mates, too, and hopefully to give the fans something to cheer about."

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel got his weekend off to the best possible start after he topped the timesheets in opening practice for the third round of the championship in Bahrain.

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