It will be an emotional weekend for the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team in Abu Dhabi, as they mark the conclusion of a seventeen season long F1 career for driver Jenson Button, who will be stepping out of the driving seat after seven years at McLaren, and into an advisory role with the team at the end of the season.
It has been an up and down year for the Woking based squad, though they have experienced more positives in 2016 than ever before, since re-igniting their partnership with the Japanese engine manufacturer. They have made big steps forward in the development of their previously dramatically underpowered Honda power unit, and now look to be on the right footing going into 2017.
McLaren-Honda Racing Director Eric Boullier is pleased with what they have all managed to achieve during some trying moments.
“The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, for McLaren-Honda, cements a very positive year, where we have overcome challenges, fought hard, pushed relentlessly and seen firm progression in every area.
“As I always say, we aren’t where we want to be, of course, but we’re fighting fit and looking ahead to a strong winter of further development.
“I’m incredibly proud of how far we’ve come in three short years – two on the track – and indebted to the incredible commitment, steadfast loyalty and unwavering support demonstrated by our team members in the UK and Japan, our Partners, and our amazing fans.”
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will also be Button’s last race as a F1 driver, for one year at least anyway, as the Brit takes a sabbatical from the sport in 2017.
The 2009 world champion will take up a new role as ambassador and advisor to the McLaren-Honda team, and although he will keep in the loop and be working closely with the other team members, Boullier commented that it will still be an emotional moment for the team who will miss the Brit’s presence in the garage.
“This weekend also marks a very significant moment for McLaren-Honda, as we bid farewell to Jenson, who will be stepping out of the cockpit after the race on Sunday to embark on a new chapter both with McLaren-Honda and in his personal life.
“As we know, it’s farewell for now and not goodbye, and we’ll be working side by side with him over the coming year, when he’ll be as close to the team and our developments as ever.
“Nevertheless, it’s a poignant step in our history together and an opportunity to celebrate his 17 seasons in the sport, seven with McLaren, and celebrate his many achievements on track.
“We’ll certainly miss him in the garage, but we look forward to continuing our relationship and the exciting projects we’ll be working on together in 2017.”
McLaren are going into the season finale with not too high expectations, as the track will not particularly suit their package, but they are still hopeful of ending the year on a positive note, and sending Button off in style.
“Last but not least, we approach this weekend with positivity, but the awareness that it will be a challenging grand prix on a track that is complex in character and offers a set of unique parameters within which to set up the car.
“With qualifying and the race taking place in very different conditions from the earlier part of the weekend, setting up the car for all eventualities is tricky but is also what makes this venue so unique, creating an awe-inspiring spectacle for fans at the end of a long season.
“The Yas Marina circuit and its ever-impressive facilities provide a stunning setting in which to go racing for the final time in 2016, and I hope we can finish the season on a high – for Jenson, the team and our fans across the world.”