Jenson Button has demanded a ‘big improvement’ from McLaren for the remainder of the season, but insists he is not ready to call time on his 16-year Formula One career.
Button, 35, arrived at this week’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone in the midst of his worst-ever start to a campaign as McLaren’s troubled relationship with Honda goes from bad to miserable.
The 2009 world champion has finished in the points on only one occasion this season - eighth at the Monaco Grand Prix - while his team-mate Fernando Alonso has retired from five of the seven races he has started. Both Button and Alonso failed to make it beyond lap nine at the Austrian Grand Prix last time out.
Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber has already urged Button to join him in the World Endurance Championship next season, but Button, who signed a one-year extension to his McLaren deal at the end of last year, has signalled his desire to extend his Formula One stay into a 17th campaign.
“You can’t finish this year two seconds behind Mercedes, and expect to challenge them in 2016,” said Button. “We want to finish races and we want reliability to be good but personally I would rather see the improvement in pace and reliability come second - everyone wants us to finish, but I want to see a big improvement, and it is coming.
“I have to look later down the line where I want to be in terms of where my future takes me, but at the moment, even though it is difficult right now, I am enjoying the challenge with Fernando and the team and that is the important bit.
“If the time came in my future that I decided I wasn’t having fun, then yeah I would want to walk away definitely, but that isn’t the case at this moment in time.”
It remains to be seen whether Button will be the fall-guy for what has been a disastrous season for McLaren and Honda.
The Japanese engine supplier has endured a catastrophic return to a relationship with McLaren which dominated Formula One between 1988 and 1991. Indeed it is arguably McLaren’s worst season in a glittering history which has delivered eight drivers’ and 12 constructors’ championships.
“I don’t think looking back at history will help us improve,” Button said. “It is very easy when you have a difficult time to mention the bad parts of what has happened and try to look back at the past and think this never happened, but personally we have never had a change like this before.
“Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari had almost three years of development before that engine raced. This Honda engine has had a year and a half, so it was always going to be difficult. I really do feel Honda have come such a long way since the first test, and the atmosphere is high within the team.
“In a way you could say it is surprising, given how difficult it has been, but I really do feel this team has pulled together and they are fighting through the difficult times.
“These guys know there is a possibility that this package could be great in the future, and that is why they are so confident, and why they are giving it their all.”
Formula One has come under fire this season for predictable, tepid races. Seven of the eight races so far have been won by either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg of Brackley-based Mercedes.
“They have just done a better job than anyone, and it is not their fault that the races have sometimes become boring because they are out half-a-lap in the lead”, Button added. “That is the competition that we have and got to work with. It is not like the eighties when Honda came in and had no competition. Now they have got two engine manufacturers who are doing a fantastic job, so you can’t suddenly jump to the front - it takes time.
“We all want a challenge. There is no point coming in straightaway and winning races because there is no challenge there. All the things worth having and worth fighting for are tough. This is no exception.”