Jenson Button will return to Formula One to race in the Monaco GP as Fernando Alonso’s stand-in, McLaren-Honda confirmed on Friday.
Alonso’s unexpected move to compete in next month’s Indianapolis 500 presented McLaren with the opportunity to draft Button back in for F1’s showpiece race, just five months after he quit the sport.
The two-year retirement deal Button signed with McLaren last autumn allowed him to take 2017 off from competition but included the proviso that he could be drafted back in as cover.
And Button said: “I’m thrilled to be making a one-off return to Formula 1 racing, and I couldn’t think of a better place to make that return than my adopted home Grand Prix: Monaco.
“I’m looking forward to pitting myself against the unique racing challenge that is the Monaco Grand Prix. I’ll drive the MCL32 around Monaco in the McLaren sim beforehand, and I reckon I’ll be ready for the race after doing that.
“I’m supremely fit, having done a lot of triathlon training recently, so I have no worries on that score. And it’ll be nice to say ‘hi’ to all my old Formula 1 mates too, and hopefully to give the fans something to cheer about.”
Button’s contract includes the option of a full-time race return in 2018.
Button, who turned 37 in January, has raced in 15 Monaco GPs, winning in 2009. He is now set to rack up his 306th F1 start on May 28 – matching Michael Schumacher for second place in the all-time appearance table.
Mclaren’s racing director Eric Boullier said: “I was truly delighted when Jenson accepted our suggestion that he race at Monaco instead of Fernando.
“Jenson is a class act. He’s a superb driver – fast, smooth and precise – and he won’t have lost any of his competitive edge over the past few months. After all, he’s missed only a handful of Grands Prix since his last outing in Abu Dhabi in late November last year, and he’s as fit as a fiddle. Also, he’s always been good at Monaco. He’ll do a great job for us, I’m sure of that.”