One of the longest running dramas of the 2014 silly season should finally be resolved in the next couple of days: who is driving for McLaren Honda in 2015.
While Fernando Alonso is widely believed to have finally signed his contract with the team over the weekend of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there is still no confirmation about who will be joining him – although there’s been plenty of speculation.
The Case For Button
Jenson Button is the most experienced driver on the grid, a world champion, and a proven race winner. He’s out performed his team mates for the past 2 seasons, and held his own in the McLaren over the 3 seasons he raced alongside Lewis Hamilton – out scoring him on two occasions.
Button’s also extremely popular in Japan and well known to the Honda Motorsports division having driven for their previous F1 team before the manufacturer pulled out of the championship and sold the remains of the team to Ross Brawn.
Button’s thought to be a good development driver, and Fernando Alonso has privately stated that he would prefer the British driver alonside him as he makes his attempt on a 3rd world championship.
Button’s an expensive resource for a team that’s rumoured to be paying Alonso some $40 million per year over the next 2 years, and it’s a while since he’s won a race. Button’s proven to be extremely marketable and appears in Santander adverts in the UK along with promoting various other products from the McLaren sponsor stable, although he’s not thought to bring any personal sponsorship to the team.
The Case for Magnussen
At the start of the 2014 season, Kevin Magnussen was a hot property, and he backed up the expectation placed on him by finishing runner up in the season opening Australian Grand Prix – although that proved to be his best result in the season.
Magnussen’s has had some good qualifying performances, and is thought to have a number of personal sponsors including Bestseller (the owners of ASOS). Ron Dennis has also been vocal about the commercial opportunities for Danish companies to partner with McLaren as the team looks for a new title sponsor.
The Case for Vandoorne
In an interview with Martin Brundle for Sky, Ron Dennis suggested that there were more than 2 names in the running for the second seat at McLaren for 2015. Stoffel Vandoorne has had a decent season in the feeder series, finishing runner up behind the more experienced Jolyon Palmer despite running fewer races. He is already test driver for the team and appeared at the Abu Dhabi test, although didn’t get much running.
He’s highly touted as a star for the future, and could deliver in support role alongside Fernando Alonso.
Choosing a Driver
The debate about who drive for McLaren in 2015 has been running since the start of the season, and intensified when it became clear that Alonso was departing Ferrari, but the McLaren leadership team have been slow in settling on a lineup.
There’s been quite a bit of criticism about the delays, as whichever of the drivers loses their seat will be unable to get a drive for next season, and will almost certainly not return to the series. Eric Boullier has repeatedly stated a date for the confirmation, but each has passed with no announcement.
Most recently, the team released a statement saying that they would announce the drivers after 1st December, and there is apparently a McLaren board meeting today (4th December) at which the issue will be debated, although whether this will result in a driver announcement, or just the start of contract negotiations is still a mystery.