There are already some pretty big names in the WEC this year with Fernando Alonso driving for Toyota in LMP1, Pastor Maldonado driving for DragonSpeed in LMP2, and Juan Pablo Montoya racing in LMP2 for United Autosports (but only at Le Mans). Now, there’s another one – Jenson Button.
The 2009 champ has now properly retired from F1 (no one-off drives at Monaco this year!) and is racing for Honda in Super GT this season, where he finished second in the opening round at Okayama. Evidently, that’s not quite enough racing action for him to be getting on with, so he’s joined the SMP Racing LMP1 team for the 2018/19 WEC superseason where he’ll share a car with Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov.
The car (which looks seriously cool) was reasonably quick in testing and could end up being the closest challenger to the Toyotas – assuming the non-hybrid cars are actually anywhere close to them, anyway.
The news means we could be in for the prospect of Button vs Alonso battles throughout the year, something we didn’t really get to see when the two were teammates at McLaren because, y’know, Honda. Jenson said of the deal:
“As you can imagine it’s always been a dream of mine to race at Le Mans, I think it’s every driver’s dream to take part and hopefully go on to clinch that win at Le Mans, and I’m definitely no different. My teammates will be Aleshin and Petrov, who I know very well from his racing in F1, and Mikhail from his IndyCar exploits. We go to Le Mans to fight for the win. Every driver aims to win every race they go in for, but I think we really do have a good chance of being competitive at Le Mans.”
With the season opener in Spa next weekend it’s probably fair to say it’s something of a last-minute deal – however, Button won’t actually race at Spa as it clashes with the Fuji Super GT round. That means his first WEC race will actually be Le Mans – somewhere he’ll get to race twice this year as he’s also racing in the Le Mans Classic.
Having another big name like Button racing is great news for the series and should help put even more bums on seats. Which is a good thing – as long as he doesn’t pee in them, anyway…