Jonathan Neale has revealed McLaren-Honda is working hard to try and convince Jenson Button to stay with the team beyond the 2015 Formula 1 season rather than retire from the sport.
The 2009 world champion has been the primary focus coming into the Japanese Grand Prix after reports suggested he would be announcing his retirement from F1 at Honda's home circuit of Suzuka.
However, with the Englishman revealing little about his future plans for the time being, McLaren has now gone on the record to declare its desire to retain him for 2016, even if Neale admits he is also none the wiser as to what his decision will be.
“I get the sense from the media that there was a big anti-climax and there was a lot of discussion about where Jenson was at,” the McLaren CEO said.
“Jenson is a fantastic guy, a world champion and a big part of our family at Honda and McLaren - he has been with us for 6 seasons – and we are contracted with him, we want him to stay and we would like him very much.
Even so, while Neale indicates McLaren's position is clear, he says the team will respect Button's decision should he choose to bring his 15 year career to an end in 2015.
“If you are a driver who doesn't really want to be in the seat then we have to respect, but I really hope that we have done enough between us to continue those discussions with him and have the confidence to have him with us, and that's what we'd like.”
Despite several pointed questions ahead of the Japanese race, Button has given little away about what his final decision could be, simply saying he is in talks with the team. Indeed, though the 15-time race winner has declared he will retire from F1 rather than switch to another team, he has repeatedly signalled his frustration at the ongoing struggles with the McLaren-Honda team.
In the meantime, as McLaren wait on Button to reveal his plans - a reversal of last year's scenario when the team didn't confirm him until December -, potential replacements Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne are waiting in the wings.
Sources have indicated to Crash.net
that Renault has approached Magnussen over a possible drive if it goes ahead and purchases Lotus in place of the Haas-bound Romain Grosjean.