In the aftermath of Honda withdrawing from the 2009 Formula One World Championship, our thoughts immediately turn to the futures of the staff and drivers, and today Jenson Button reiterated his loyalty to the beleaguered squad. Speaking at the Race Of Champions in London’s Wembley Arena, Button stated that it is either Honda or nothing for 2009, which could ultimately mean the Briton will have to take a year out at minimum if no buyer is found for the Brackley team.
My way of thinking is that if this team does happen in 2009, we will be very strong. I’m sure there would be other options to race in F1, but very limited, because it’s so late in the day. So it is a difficult decision to make.
But at the moment I’m completely focused on working with the team to try to find someone to buy it – that has to be my best option for 2009. I’d rather not take a year out because I think that is bad for a racing driver, but that is always an option also.
But my first aim is to race with the Brackley-based team, whatever they’re called for next year. Jenson Button.
It was thought that Button may be able to join Scuderia Toro Rosso for next season, the Austro-Italia team yet to decide on their drivers for the 2009 campaign. While the squad has evaluated Sebastien Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Buemi, they are still to confirm, hinting that they may be waiting to see what will happen with Button first. STR have expressed interest in the one-time race winner, previously stating that Jenson is “interesting”.
With most other seats now occupied, particularly the top teams, Button’s immediate future looks doubtful and as he stated himself, in reality it comes down to whether or not a buyer can be found for the Honda team in time. Bernie Ecclestone has been helping the Japanese marque, but has also been very critical of the team recently, saying that set a very poor example to the rest of the world, spending a lot of money for only a handful of points.
Honda will be no great loss. Just look at where they finished in the championship – ninth. They wasted millions and were a bad example to other teams.
In Formula One, teams come and go. It’s not the end of the world. Only Ferrari has been there since the start.
Now they’ve gone, we’ve got a chance to bring in some sense to the teams about how much they should spend. Bernie Ecclestone.
Although Button has been very vocal in the past week, visiting the factory and helping to improve morale, Rubens Barrichello has been eerily quiet. At the time Honda announced their withdrawal, Barrichello had been hoping for a race seat for 2009, but did not have a contract, it is believed. Rubens’s silence on the matter strongly suggests that his contract had expired after the Brazilian Grand Prix, and therefore he no longer has any obligations to the team right now.
Given Barrichello’s age and lack of race seats available, it seems unlikely the Brazilian driver will be able to extend his career for another season, although a lack of official retirement statement also suggests Barrichello is somehow still hopeful. We can only presume Rubens is keeping a close eye on proceedings from afar, but as each day passes and the end of the year is nigh, the chances of either Barrichello or the team surviving seem fairly slim.
If Jenson Button were to take a year out from competing, would he be able to return in 2010? Alain Prost famously took a year out of Formula One in 1992, at the time announcing a sabbatical from the sport he clearly loved. However, in 1993 the French driver was given the opportunity to race for the competitive Williams team, and it was too much of an offer for Prost to turn down. Of course, Alain went on to take the ’93 title, at the time a record of five titles for one driver.
Jenson may be able to make a comeback with many teams only extending their driver’s contracts by an extra year. McLaren, Williams, BMW, Toyota, Renault, Force India and possibly Scuderia Toro Rosso will all have vacancies for 2010 season, and Red Bull Racing may also have a seat (I can’t remember when Mark Webber’s contract is up). However, given Button’s torrid 2008 season, will team’s be thinking of Button when they come to evaluate their future line-ups? McLaren will not want two Britons in their cars, Williams may still be licking their wounds from the contract fiasco a few years ago, and BMW seem pretty good with their Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica pairing.
Of course, there is still a chance that the Honda car will be on the Australian grid in March next year, albeit with a different name. And if they are, Jenson is pretty upbeat about the car’s competitiveness. Although it should be noted that how a driver can evaluate a cars potential before it has even turned a wheel is beyond my thinking.
Image © HondaF1.