Jenson Button will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne in McLaren's driver line-up for 2017 alongside Fernando Alonso, after the British driver signed a new two-year deal to take on a new role.
McLaren has confirmed it will use 'an innovative three-driver strategy' for the next two seasons after Button signed a new deal to stay within the team fold. Button will be replaced by Vandoorne in McLaren's driver line-up for 2017 but will remain a key member and ambassador for the F1 squad.
As expected, Alonso will continue as a full-time McLaren driver for 2017 and will team-mate youngster Vandoorne.
The news effectively ends the strong rumours linking Button to a move to Williams off the back of Felipe Massa's retirement from F1 at the end of the 2016 season, which had been announced in the build-up to the Italian Grand Prix.
Click here for full qualifying results for the Italian Grand Prix
With Alonso's current contract at the Woking-based squad running until the end of the 2017 season, it is not yet known whether Button would return to racing in F1 with McLaren in 2018, a decision which is unlikely to be confirmed until later next year.
For 2017, Button will act as a development and reserve driver - the role Vandoorne has held for the previous two years - and act as an ambassador for McLaren.
McLaren Chairman and CEO Ron Dennis has expressed his delight at retaining Button for two more years and hasn't ruled out the possibility of the British driver returning to a race seat for 2018.
“McLaren-Honda's race driver line-up next season will be Fernando and Stoffel – a perfectly balanced mix of proven brilliance and immense potential,” Dennis said. “Having extended his [Button's] contract to include 2017 and 2018, he'll continue to be a senior, influential and committed member of the team, and will remain centrally involved in the development of our cars. He'll also be available to race for us if circumstances require it.
“On behalf of all at McLaren-Honda, I want to say how thrilled we are that Jenson has extended his contractual relationship with us. Moreover, I'm absolutely certain that the depth of his experience and the currency of his expertise will give us an advantage over our opposition next season.”
Having overseen a successful F1 debut for Vandoorne when he stepped in for the injured Alonso in Bahrain, Dennis is confident the 24-year-old is prepared for the challenge of a full F1 campaign.
“Stoffel has been a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since February 2013, and was appointed our Test and Development Driver 11 months later,” Dennis said. “Over the past two-and-a-half years he's made a very valuable contribution in that role. He's now completed with distinction a meticulously designed apprenticeship.
“He's consequently now ready to race in Formula 1, as his fine Grand Prix debut in Bahrain this year proved.”
Latest Tweets from Crash.net & GPF1rst