Smoke and mirrors at McLaren


While the F1 world gets to grips with McLaren's "innovative three-driver strategy", speculation is rife as to what is really behind the move.

While there can be no doubt that Stoffel Vandoorne is ready for the step up to F1 and that we can therefore discount talk of Jenson Button being retained in case the youngster fails, one has to presume that McLaren's move is with an eye on Fernando Alonso deciding that he doesn't like the much anticipated new look cars in 2017 and deciding enough is enough.

The Spaniard has made no secret of his weariness with the current state of the sport, and as recently as last week was admitting that unless the re-boot next season gives him the buzz he craves he will walk away.

Of course, his frustration hasn't been helped by the torrid time he had of it in 2015, his first season back with McLaren, and while things are improving it will not be at anything like rate the Spaniard needs if he is to add to his world championship tally.

Consequently, faced with the possibility of Alonso walking away, leaving the Woking outfit without a 'star' driver, the "innovative three-driver strategy" has been devised. And it's fooling no-one.

Indeed, the claim that Button is retiring but not retiring has probably caused more of a media storm than if Alonso had walked away and left the team scrambling for a replacement, even if it happened mid-season.

Aware that Button, who will have known that Vandoorne was about to be promoted, would have no problem finding a drive elsewhere, most likely Williams, McLaren, or more likely Honda, has come up with the "innovative three-driver strategy" that ties the Briton to the team (just in case) and prevents anyone else getting their hands on him.

As ever, when asked about the situation, Ron Dennis only further muddied the waters, admitting that Button had received other offers.

"Jenson had offers to drive next year in other teams and declined those offers," he told reporters.

However, what really confuses is not the fact that this "innovative" deal is for 2017, but for 2018 also.

Asked what needed to happen for Button to be back in a McLaren in 2018 or whether, should the seat not be available, whether he can move to another team, Dennis replied: "I can't give you straight answers to those questions, the reality is we'll see where we are in a year.

"We'll get there and then we'll decide if we're going to exercise the option or not," he added. "At that point Jenson has to step into the situation with all the right motivation, focus and everything, so it's not a one-way decision.

"What is clear though, is if Jenson's going to drive a Formula 1 car in 2018 I believe it can only be a McLaren. I don't think Jenson has a desire to drive anybody else's car."

Over the last 18 - 20 months we've seen Button smile and talk his way through numerous situations, and his assurance that the "innovative three-driver strategy" suit him appears to be another.

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Published: 04/09/2016
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