In a sport that sees teams, especially top rung outfits, announce their driver lineups for the following season well before the year’s end, McLaren waited until the morning of December 11 to announce that Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will lead the Woking-based team’s charge for 2015. Kevin Magnussen, although no longer the team’s race pilot, will continue in the role of test/substitute driver.
Since Alonso’s departure from Ferrari – clearing the way for Sebastian Vettel to take a seat at the Scuderia – it was commonly believed that the Spaniard would return to McLaren, with which he had a tumultuous season alongside reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2007. But five years at the Scuderia did not yield that third title Alonso so dearly craves and his plans to join Mercedes-AMG for 2016 did not pan out.
McLaren’s adoption of Honda power will encourage Alonso, but he will have had to swallow his Latin pride to join forces with McLaren team boss Ron Dennis – a rift between the Spaniard and Englishman led to the former’s acrimonious exit from the team at the end of 2007. While the decision to re-sign Alonso was a no-brainer for most people it was the second seat at McLaren that was the hot topic.
Jenson Button has been a loyal soldier for the team for many years now, and is well-loved by the fans, not forgetting that he also won the world title in 2009. At 34 years of age, many believed his best years were behind him, but McLaren chose to retain the Briton at the cost of the 22-year old Dane, Kevin Magnussen. Button outscored his team-mate 126 to 55 in 2014’s final points log and his experience is invaluable.
So after weeks of conjecture, speculation and rumour-milling (yes, I just made that up), Alonso and Button will take to the grid for McLaren-Honda at the season-opening race next year. With three world titles between the pair, Alonso-Button constitutes the strongest driver pairing after Ferrari’s team of Vettel and Raikkonen (five titles in total).