Jenson Button is expected to retire from F1 at the end of this season, with an announcement from the 2009 world champion set to come as early as this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The 35-year-old had been negotiating a new deal with McLaren to continue his 16-year career into 2016, and has previously said that he will not remain in F1 with any other team.
However the shortcomings of the McLaren/Honda technical package, which registered its fourth-double-retirement of the season in Singapore last weekend, coupled with a lack of any guarantees that the car will significantly improve next year, are believed to have prompted his decision.
Button’s next step is not immediately clear. He is heading towards the end of the second year of a two-year-plus-one deal with McLaren, meaning that both sides have an option to extend the contract into 2016.
Securing the freedom to drive elsewhere would depend upon McLaren releasing him from the final year of that deal. Reports have linked him with discussions with Porsche for its LMP1 program, and Porsche’s Mark Webber told RACER last week that several drivers of Button’s caliber had reached out to him privately to enquire about opportunities in the World Endurance Championship.
Button also has ties to rallycross: he tested a world rallycross car last month for a BBC feature, and his late father John was an active member of the rallycross scene in the 1970s and 1980s.
In addition, he has been strongly connected to a number of media roles, including a co-presenter’s job on the revamped UK version of Top Gear.
The race to fill a vacant seat alongside Fernando Alonso next year is also open, although McLaren already has two potential contenders on its books: reserve driver Kevin Magnussen, who raced for the team last year, and test driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who is the runaway points leader in GP2.