The Inside Line #121: Off the mark

TILI Logo PrintThe glowing career reviews were written, his professional obituary already published. And then a funny thing happened on the way to Jenson Button’s retirement. He didn’t retire. Not in the Thursday pre-event press conference in Japan, the day after the Fleet Street hacks had missed the story by a gap bigger than McLaren’s deficit to the sharp end of the F1 grid. Not the day after the Japanese Grand Prix, where McLaren was, to use Fernando Alonso’s assessment, “embarrassing”. And not four days after that race, when Button announced he was staying for 2016.

There’ll be all sorts of reasons for Button electing to continue his career into a 17th season next year – some financial, some honourable, some personal – but you can’t help but wonder how that season will be spent after the other big news of late last week, that Manor will use Mercedes engines from next year onwards. With Manor the only team behind McLaren in the constructors’ standings this season, might the arrival of the best engine in the sport move the minnows above the once-mighty McLaren next season if Honda’s powerplants don’t make a dramatic improvement? It’s almost unthinkable, but it is in play. The extra $5 million or so Button will make by staying next season can buy only so much happiness …

McLaren will arrive in Sochi for this week’s Russian Grand Prix as, unusually for a team languishing in ninth in the teams’ race, the centre of attention as F1 moves from arguably its best circuit at Suzuka to one of its worst. Why did Button stay? Is Alonso going? What of Ron Dennis? When will Honda make gains? It’ll be fascinating to find out, and equally fascinating if anyone writes any prediction stories beforehand. Some of them might even be right …

A Russian Grand Prix preview features this week on Episode 121 of ‘The Inside Line’ – check it out.

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