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Pre-Abu Dhabi analysis - Button's F1 farewell?

21 Nov 2014

Could Sunday’s 2014 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix be Jenson Button’s last F1 race?

As Ferrari finally confirmed that Fernando Alonso is leaving and that he will be replaced by Sebastian Vettel next year, that’s one of the big questions that will remain unanswered this weekend. McLaren now say their decision on drivers will not be announced before December 1.

Button’s stylish but aggressive run to fourth place in Brazil has no doubt caused some more head scratching in Woking, as have all of his recent performances against team mate Kevin Magnussen. For a long time in mid-season it seemed certain that they would opt for the youthful vitality and speed of the Danish rookie, but opinion has been wavering. After a period of angst, 34 year-old Button relaxed, overcame the disappointment of feeling unwanted, and let his driving flow again.

“Whatever happens next year, the money is not the issue in any way, shape or form, for me anyway,” he said in Interlagos recently. “Whether I’m racing here in F1 or racing somewhere else, I do it because I love it. I still want to earn money from it because I feel I have achieved and should get paid for what I do in an F1 car or in a racing car and for what I bring to a team. But I’m not a driver who takes the mickey and I will race somewhere even I’m if not getting the big bucks like a few drivers who are out there.

“You should get what you deserve and I feel I bring a lot to a team not just in terms of results but in terms of marketing and working with sponsors, and how I can help develop a car.

“You want to feel like you are wanted in a team and part of the family. It’s like if your parents were to turn round and say, ‘We’re not sure we want you at Christmas this year. But your brother can come, he’s great.’ You know what I mean. Feeling part of a family is more important than money.”

Naturally, he wants to win more races and firmly believes that he can. “I did some TV here and they said do you want to stay if you can win races and I said ‘Yeah, I’ve done my schooling in F1, I’ve come of age at 34, I’m ready for it!’

“I want to race in a category I can win in, and for me challenging and fighting at the front means a lot. [In Brazil] we were almost fighting for the podium, though a couple of steps are still needed to fight for wins. I really enjoyed it - and if every race was like that, you’d want to race for several more years.”

But he said that although his performance at Interlagos might have made people take more notice, he isn’t the person to ask about that.

“I don’t go driving to prove anything anymore. I’m here to do my job and my job is to do the best for myself and for the team and that’s exactly what I did. I enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun. It was nice to get everything out of the car. It wasn’t a perfect race, we made a couple of little errors, but I enjoyed it out there and obviously I feel that I’m doing a good job.”

Enigmatically, when asked here yesterday whether he would wait for McLaren’s deferred decision, he replied: “It’s been an interesting few months. When you’ve been put in an uncomfortable situation your eyes are opened to other possibilities and there are a lot of challenges out there. I’m open to many things but I love racing in F1 and I love racing for McLaren. Will I wait for their decision? That’s something I can’t comment on right now.”