Don’t expect Jenson Button to spend the first few practice sessions for the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix shaking off any rust.
Button recently told Sky Sports that his simulator work at the McLaren Technology Centre proved to him that he hasn’t missed a beat in his six-month hiatus from F1, according to ESPN. The 2009 world champion still is contracted with McLaren-Honda through 2018, but he is taking a sabbatical in 2017 to free up a race seat for Stoffel Vandoorne.
With Fernando Alonso missing the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500, Button will be back behind the wheel of an F1 car on May 28. Although some were concerned about McLaren’s decision not to have Button test the MCL32 on track before his return, the 37-year-old certainly isn’t.
“You jump into the simulator and after five laps there’s that, ‘OK, I’ve still got it then,’ ” Button told Sky Sports, via ESPN. “I can still direct the car around the corners and I still know how to change gear and push the brake pedal and modulate the throttle. That never leaves you.”
Toward the end of 2016, Button seemingly couldn’t wait to get away from F1, as his frustration over McLaren’s lack of competitiveness had caused him to become disinterested with the sport. Despite that, he reportedly jumped at the opportunity to race again in the principality.
“When the chance came to race in Monaco, I was going to take it,” Button said. “I don’t want to be racing in Formula One for a whole season because I’ve done my time in Formula One … But to come back for the Monaco Grand Prix, I mean that is just the dream for a racing driver; coming in for a one-off race, in Monaco, the most glamorous Grand Prix on the calendar, that excitement is back.”
The physicality of 2017-spec F1 cars likely won’t throw him for a loop, either. Button is among the group of veteran drivers who have experience with cars that produce similar levels of downforce, plus he’s been keeping up his fitness during his time off.
Thumbnail photo via Honda