Almost all of the speculation, informed or otherwise, around the racing future of 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button has involved potential opportunities with the Honda brand, something which is still a possibility in Super GT after the popular Briton raced in the Suzuka 1000kms for the brand earlier this year.
Honda have shown real interest in having Button join them for the 2018 Super GT Championship
but now it seems that a future programme with quite another Japanese giant might also be under consideration.
Autosport Japan are today reporting details of a story that was circulating in the background at Fuji Speedway last weekend that Button may instead be on the cusp of a race programme with Nissan.
The potential switch comes courtesy of both circumstance and opportunity, the major circumstantial component being the relationship between McLaren, to whom Button remains contracted, and Honda.
The McLaren contract with Honda concludes with the end of the 2017 F1 season, with Button’s current McLaren contract (according to Jenson himself) active to the end of 2018, potentially putting Button into an ambassadorial role with the F1 team and the brand, a prospect already being mooted in media known to have a direct route into the McLaren F1 ‘hive’.
If that does happen then it seems highly unlikely that Button, a prized McLaren ‘asset’ would be free to join the F1 team’s ex-engine supplier.
Honda though is being replaced as the F1 engine supplier for McLaren by Renault Sport, with ex Renault F1 Team Principal Eric Boullier now in charge of McLaren’s F1 team. Renault, of course, are part of the same company as Nissan, which offers an interesting new series of choices for Button if he did still want to race either in Japan, or in the USA, Button having expressed interest in both Super GT and IMSA’s DPi class.
Comments from Button today, as he begins a round robin of promotional interviews for his newly published autobiography have made it very clear that there is an immediate prospect of Super GT for next season, but that a contract is not yet signed. It may well be that his contractual position for Super GT, and with McLaren, are intrinsically linked.
If it does come with Nissan then it won’t be the first time that Button has dallied with the brand, 2015 saw him in knife-edge talks with McLaren to continue in F1, but in the background Button was also in discussions about a fall-back option, to join the Nissan LMP1 team not just for the Le Mans 24 Hours, but potentially for a full season in FIA WEC.
McLaren eventually came through with a offer to continue in F1, and the story of the GT-R LM programme means that that proved to be much the better choice for Jenson.
Stop Press (19/10) – sources close to the Button camp have confirmed to DSC that there have ben no negotiations with Nissan regarding either Super GT or IMSA opportunities – Honda, it seems, remain the primary option