Switching his 2019 focus to defending his Super GT title, Jenson Button will skip the first two rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship this year, only returning to SMP Racing to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The SMP Racing team had listed Button on the provisional entry list for the 1,000 Miles of Sebring in March, but a clash with a Super GT test will see the British driver sitting out the American round of the WEC.
He also missed the opening round of the 2018/19 season, last year’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as it fell on the same weekend as a Super GT round. The same clash occurs again in 2019 which is why Button will not return for this race.
Towards the end of 2018, Button did hint at a “scaled back” WEC programme this year as he wanted to focus on defending his Super GT crown that he won in 2018 with Naoki Yamamoto.
“It was always clear that it wasn’t going to be easy to combine my participation in the seasons of WEC and Super GT,” the 2009 Formula One World Champion told Autosport upon announcing his decision to prioritise the Japanese championship. “At the same time, to race for SMP Racing – even if I would have to miss certain rounds – is a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
“The Shanghai podium is an unbelievable achievement and progress for our team, and we’ll keep trying and working further to secure ever greater results.”
The third driver in the #11 for the Sebring and Spa-Francorchamps rounds has yet to be announced by SMP. They may be able to get through the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps with just Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, but the length of the American round will require them to bring in a third driver.
Sergey Sirotkin has been noted as one of the favourites for the seat, after losing his 2019 F1 drive to Robert Kubica. Sirotkin graduated to F1 with SMP backing and has also raced with the team in the past.