Ron Dennis is excited by the mix of youth and experience that will grace the McLaren-Honda team in Formula 1 in 2017 after Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were announced for the Woking-based team.
But the Executive Chairman and CEO of McLaren has given high praise to Jenson Button, who steps down from the race seat to take on an ambassadorial role with the team, with Dennis delighted that the Briton has decided to remain a part of the McLaren set-up for at least two more years albeit in a much different role.
“McLaren-Honda’s race driver line-up next season will be Fernando and Stoffel – a perfectly balanced mix of proven brilliance and immense potential,” said Dennis.
“But, before I speak on the subject of either of them, I want to talk about Jenson. As a race driver for our team these past seven seasons, he’s been superb, both on and off the track. And, as we’re seeing this season, he remains superb – not only fast and fit but also experienced and expert. He’ll start his 298th Grand Prix tomorrow; as such, he’s the most experienced driver on the grid.
“Having extended his contract to include 2017 and 2018, he’ll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He’ll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.
“On behalf of all at McLaren-Honda, I want to say how thrilled we are that Jenson has extended his contractual relationship with us. Moreover, I’m absolutely certain that the depth of his experience and the currency of his expertise will give us an advantage over our opposition next season.”
The retaining of Alonso was never in doubt, and Dennis insists that he remains as one of the ‘finest and fastest’ drivers he has come across, and believes 2017 will be the year when the partnership starts to bring in the strong results.
“As for Fernando, 2017 will be his third year as a McLaren-Honda race driver, and I need hardly reaffirm his credentials here,” said Dennis. “So let me simply restate my belief that he’s one of the finest and fastest Grand Prix drivers I’ve ever seen, and we’re very proud to have him in the team.
“He’s been both diligent and patient over the past two seasons, and he shares with all of us at McLaren-Honda the confidence that 2017 will be the season in which our partnership begins to deliver strong results.”
Dennis feels his latest Formula 1 driver Vandoorne has proved that he deserves his promotion to the race seat after two and a half years inside the McLaren Young Driver Programme, and is ready for the full step up following his taster at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this season.
“Stoffel has been a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since February 2013, and was appointed our Test and Development Driver 11 months later,” said Dennis.
“Over the past two-and-a-half years he’s made a very valuable contribution in that role, learning from his two World Champion team-mates as well as from our many world-class engineers, and, having been runner-up in World Series by Renault in 2013 and the run-away winner of the GP2 Championship last year, he’s now completed with distinction a meticulously designed apprenticeship.
“He’s consequently now ready to race in Formula 1, as his fine Grand Prix debut in Bahrain this year proved.”