When it comes to Formula 1, the "silly season" is arguably more exciting than the regular season. The current rumors have Sebastian Vettel leaving Red Bull for Ferrari, Fernando Alonso leaving Ferrari to return to McLaren with Honda engines, and Jenson Button being pushed out of his position at McLaren to make room for the Spaniard's arrival. According to Motorsport.com, they have reliable sources hinting that Button, a Formula One World Champion in his own right, has been in talks with Porsche, negotiating a seat in their 919 Hybrid LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship.
Richard Goddard, Jenson's manager -
"McLaren aren't sure what they're doing and what their line-up will be. That's pretty obvious. Jenson is still focused on F1 but would only want to be in one of the top teams so we're always open to talking to anyone. Jenson is an incredibly competitive racing driver who wants to race. He's too good to sit at the back of the F1 grid. So he either gets a competitive car in F1 or he goes to get one elsewhere."
Jenson has been in Formula 1 for 16 seasons already, and at the rate F1 teams keep promoting teenagers to their driver ranks, he is among the oldest drivers in the series at 34 years of age. Button, the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, hasn't had the best of luck lately, and his McLaren team hasn't been producing the most competitive cars since he joined their ranks in 2010. In point of fact, he hasn't won a grand prix since the season finale at Brazil in 2012, and has only managed to score one podium place since then.
Button is known for being easy on his equipment, having a very smooth driving style, being very generous to his tires, and generally being a fluid driver that makes it to the finish line, though perhaps not in the quickest time. These characteristics are becoming less and less desirable in Formula 1 as mechanical failure becomes less of a concern in the higher teams, though they are still highly regarded in endurance racing, where Porsche could make good use of Jenson's talents. While his races have been no longer than 2 hours for the last decade and a half, Jenson could extrapolate his F1 knowledge out to an endurance length race. A high level experienced F1 pilot can reasonably produce good results in an LMP1 car, as Porsche's hiring of Mark Webber this season has proved. Pairing Button with Webber on a Porsche LMP1 team could certainly hold the makings of an endurance racing 'dream team'.
The time to make a move of this caliber couldn't be more right for Jenson, assuming he does lose his seat with McLaren during the off-season. First and foremost, the WEC is gaining momentum and strength in numbers. The current crop of manufacturers; Porsche, Audi, and Toyota, will be joined by a Nissan factory squad next year, and there are rumors of further manufacturer involvement in future seasons, including interest from Ferrari, McLaren, Ford, and more.
Of course, 2014 hasn't been entirely kind to Porsche's 919 Hybrid. It's debut season has been a little underwhelming from a numbers perspective, producing only a pair of podiums thus far, but if you look a little deeper, you'll see that the 919 has been pretty competitive in terms of outright speed this season. Porsche led overall at Le Mans with only a handful of hours remaining, they had a legitimate shot at victory at the Circuit of the Americas were it not for a pair of failures. This might just be a theory, but I'd wager that the failures at Le Mans and COTA caused the team to dial back their electric motors performance a bit for better heat management when they arrived in Fuji. Both 919s finished at Fuji, and they were able to keep ahead of the Audis on pace, and only just behind the Toyotas.
Porsche is making advancements, and next year's car should benefit greatly from all of the data gleaned in 2014. For 2015, Porsche will be producing an all-new 919, including a new monocoque design, as well as a move from their current 6 Megajoule designation to the higher 8 Megajoule category. This shift in their LMP design will be "evolutionary rather than revolutionary" as is most of Porsche's work, but expect the 2015 car to step up to the plate against the competition. For all of these reasons, perhaps Button's best move would be to join Porsche for 2015, and finally close the Formula 1 chapter of his life.
For years Formula 1 was the technological advancement leader in motorsport. That challenge has firmly been picked up by prototype sports cars, and they're running away with the title. F1 has seen a number of OEMs leave their ranks, and in the case of Toyota, shifted directly to WEC competition. The king of Motorsport is dead, long live the king! Jenson, the time is now. Get out while the getting is good. You'll find a rabid fanbase among the Porsche faithful, and you'll be welcomed with open arms. Mr. Button, your car is ready.
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Porsche’s WEC Pictures And Results From Fuji, Japan
Porsche Has A “Tough Day In Texas” At The Fourth Round Of The World Endurance Championship
A Last Look Back On Our Trip To The 24 Hours of Le Mans
10 Things We Learned At The 24 Hours Of Le Mans
Source: Motorsport.com and BBC Sport
[919 Hybrid photos sourced from Porsche, Button/Webber photo sourced from grandprix247.com]