Jenson Button looks set to stay with McLaren next season despite speculation of a rift with team boss Ron Dennis over contract talks.
The 35-year-old’s Formula One future was the subject of intense scrutiny at the Japanese Grand Prix over the weekend after suggesting he had fallen out of love with the sport.
But Dennis insisted after Sunday’s Suzuka race – where the Brit finished 16th a lap behind race winner Lewis Hamilton as the team’s woeful season continued – that he had told Button he would be driving for McLaren in 2016.
“Yes (he will he here),” Dennis told reporters. “Jenson has a two-year contract. I should have taken away any doubt of our commitment to him earlier than I did.
“I did not speak to him until Thursday,” added Dennis. “But at the end of the day it would have been more constructive if he had known I had no intention to exercise our option to terminate his contract.”
The 2009 world champion Button had been linked to a move to the World Endurance Championship and even a new career in the media as presenter of the BBC’s motoring show Top Gear.
He joined McLaren in 2010 after winning the title with Brawn and finished runner-up behind Sebastian Vettel a year later.
However, he has not reached the podium since his last victory at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012 and has collected just six points in a nightmare 2015 for the Honda-powered team.
Dennis, who only showed up in the Suzuka paddock on race day after struck down by a virus, also had to deal with a tantrum by Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard’s frustration boiled over after finishing out of the points in Japan, saying on team radio “it’s embarrassing, very embarrassing” as cars passed his underpowered McLaren on the straights.
“GP2 engine, GP2 engine!” barked an exasperated Alonso, referring to Formula One’s feeder series where cars have around 300 horsepower less than their F1 counterparts, before finishing 11th.
Dennis did not appreciate his driver’s outburst, nor comments subsequently attributed to the Spaniard about possibly leaving the team.
“It does not show the professionalism that I would like all of our drivers to show,” said Dennis. “I will handle it in my own way, not in public.”