2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button has confirmed that he will be making his first Le Mans start this year with SMP Racing in the LMP1 class, before taking on the remaining rounds of the FIA WEC Super Season with the team.
Button will drive the Russian team’s No. 11 BR1 with another ex-F1 drivern – Vitaly Petrov – and ex-IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin. This means that two F1 world champions will be competing in LMP1 this year, as Button is set to go head-to-head with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Fernando Alonso through the 2018/19 season – with the exception of next week’s season opener at Spa, which Button will miss.
“I am pleased to welcome Jenson Button as part of our team,” said SMP Racing founder Boris Rotenberg. “He is a top-level driver and Formula 1 champion. He will race with the Russian BR1 prototype, a car of the top LMP1 category. His teammates will be our strongest drivers, Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov. We’re sure our line-up is one of the best and most competitive in the FIA WEC.”
Button, who in addition to his WEC program with SMP, is racing full time in the Japanese Super GT series, added: “I’m delighted to be a part of the SMP Racing team in the FIA World Endurance Championship. My teammates for this year will be Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov whom I know very well from his racing in Formula 1 and Mikhail obviously from his IndyCar exploits.
“I think with those two and the experience we all have from different types of racing and the team’s fantastic experience in endurance racing, we have a great chance to fight at the front and fight for the win. I can’t wait to get going.”
With the announcement earlier today that Action Express driver Felipe Nasr also is set to make his Le Mans debut this year, (in LMP2 with Cetilar Villorba Corse), there are now 23 drivers with F1 starts confirmed for Le Mans, six of them rookies, including Button and the aforementioned Brazilian.