Three days after the initial announcement McLaren has finally confirmed that Jenson Button will stand in for Fernando Alonso in the Monaco GP.
Button agreed a deal as reserve driver for 2017 and was always the obvious candidate for the drive. Any reservations he might have had have obviously been eased by the special appeal of Monaco and the fact that the track could be one of McLaren’s best opportunities to score points this season.
“I’ve won the race before, in 2009, and it’s one of my all-time favourite race tracks,” he said. “It’s a tricky street circuit on which a good driver can really make a difference – and, although the McLaren-Honda MCL32 hasn’t begun the season well, I think it may be more suited to Monaco than to the faster circuits that Fernando and Stoffel have raced it on so far this season.
“OK, I realise we won’t have a realistic chance of repeating my 2009 victory, but I think we’ll have a opportunity to score world championship points, which will be very valuable to the team in terms of constructors’ rankings.
“I’ll drive the MCL32 around Monaco in the McLaren sim beforehand, and I reckon I’ll be ready for the race after doing that. 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 1 mates too, and hopefully to give the fans something to cheer about.”
Racing director Eric Boullier added: “I was truly delighted when Jenson accepted our suggestion that he race at Monaco instead of Fernando, and I know I speak on behalf of everyone at McLaren-Honda, and all our sponsor-partners and fans too, when I say that it’s great news for Jenson, for McLaren, for Honda, for our sponsor-partners, for Monaco, and for the sport of Formula 1.
“Jenson is a class act. He’s a superb driver – fast, smooth and precise – and he won’t have lost any of his competitive edge over the past few months. After all, he’s missed only a handful of Grands Prix since his last outing in Abu Dhabi in late November last year, and he’s as fit as a fiddle. Also, he’s always been good at Monaco. He’ll do a great job for us, I’m sure of that.”