McLaren-Honda appears poised to retain Jenson Button alongside Fernando Alonso for the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship season after giving the clearest indication yet of its plans for next season.
Button's position in the team has been the subject of speculation in recent weeks as McLaren mull the possibility of reinstating last year's driver Kevin Magnussen into a race seat for 2016 or even promoting highly-rated GP2 Series champion-elect Stoffel Vandoorne.
With McLaren's decision-making process being hampered by the ongoing issues being suffered by the troubled Honda-powered MP4-30, it now seems the team is leaning towards maintaining an unchanged driver line-up for next season, with racing director Eric Boullier saying it 'intends' to keep Button.
"As far as we are concerned at McLaren, we only have two cars so there will only be two race seats. We have two world champions today and we do intend to keep them so far."
Regarding Magnussen and Vandoorne, Boullier says McLaren will do its utmost to ensure both drivers are competing in 2016, though dwindling options could see one or both land at only Manor or the incoming Haas.
"We expect the four of them to race. It's a luxury problem to have four good drivers. Kevin and Stoffel are very good. Both of them we expect to race in Formula 1 and if we can't fit or accommodate them we will do our best to make sure they can race next year."
Meanwhile, Magnussen has hinted he may walk away from F1 if he doesn't get a return in 2016, telling Sky Sports
he is exploring options elsewhere.
“I need to find myself a drive," the Dane said. "I want to race; I'm not prepared to sit around another year. I've decided that I need to race next year and if I can't do that in Formula 1 then I will try and do it somewhere else.
“I'm contracted to McLaren and committed to them. I'm constantly talking to Ron Dennis and pushing him to tell me what's going on. And I'm sure Ron will know at some point and tell me.”
Though a Honda 'B-team' has been mooted - most likely via an engine supply deal to Manor - as a solution for Magnussen and Vandoorne, Boullier has told Crash.net
that it is not in either McLaren or Honda's immediate plans.