Claims that Jenson Button isn’t fully committed to his impending return to Formula 1 have been rejected by McLaren Technology Group COO Jonathan Neale.
The 2009 world champion will return to the Formula 1 grid for next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, replacing Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard makes his Indianapolis 500 début, despite having yet to sample a 2017-spec F1 car.
Button turned down the opportunity to test the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team‘s MCL32, opting instead to run the Monaco Grand Prix on the team’s simulator, which sparked comments from former race winner Mark Webber as the Australian suggested Button was “not very interested” in his F1 return.
But Neale rejects such claims and when speaking with Motorsport.com said: “I think Jenson is certainly putting time in behind the scenes to prepare well for it.
“He’s done multiple sessions in the simulator, just doing the one track. And also just familiarising himself with the car, the tyres, the power unit, the balance, and the braking performance.
“I think he’s got his head in for this race, without a shadow of a doubt.
“Monaco is perhaps one of those circuits where the driver contribution matters proportionately more than on other circuits, he knows it well, he’s been very successful there, and he’s a good racer.
“It’s Monaco, anything could happen, but you nudge the odds in your favour by being well-prepared and putting World Champions in the car.”
Speaking specifically of Webber’s comments, Neale remarked: “He’s good mates with Webber, and I don’t dispute that there’s a lot of banter going on in the background.
“I think it’s good natured banter, and I think we’ll see him focused.”
Questions remain however, over Button’s competitiveness following his six-month absence from the cockpit. Neale believes the former champion will have no trouble adapting to the 2017 machinery and looks forward to seeing a good fight between the two McLaren drivers.
“I’m not a driver, so I don’t know, but I think he’s going to be fine. I suspect what you’ve said is what Stoffel is hoping for, because wouldn’t it be nice if Stoffel [Vandoorne] kicked his arse!
“He’s a world champion, he’s a classy guy, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes.
“At the end of the day he’s still a racer at heart, and it will be nice to have him back.”