Ron Dennis has underlined the statement that Jenson Button's new two-year deal does not signal the end of his time in Formula 1 and explains if the former world champion does return it will only be for McLaren.
The shock news came after qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix with the announcement of a new contract for Button at McLaren which sees him step away from racing for 2017 and effectively take on the reserve and development driver role.
Button replaced by Vandoorne in McLaren's 2017 driver line-up
As a result, Stoffel Vandoorne will be promoted into a race seat at McLaren for next year alongside Fernando Alonso by replacing Button.
Despite moving out of a race seat, Dennis hasn't ruled out the possibility of the 2009 world champion returning to F1 in 2018 but a decision is unlikely until late next year.
“To avoid any confusion, forget the word retirement,” Dennis confirmed. “That's not in the vocabulary, that isn't what we're saying. Jenson is one of the team's drivers for the next two years. If Jenson's needed to drive next year for any reason, he will drive.
“It means that you've got a super-fit guy, there's absolutely no question when you look at the races, you look at qualifying and everything that Jenson is more than capable of winning grands prix and winning world championships right now.
“It's not the physical, it's the mental side. Not a lack of determination to win but just the constant grind of being in Formula One. So we talked and actually it's a very, very practical and logical solution. Let Jenson get his mind balanced and re-established and relaxed and then look at the future.”
Click here for full qualifying results for the Italian Grand Prix
Dennis also stressed the thinking behind handing Button a two-year deal is to ensure he couldn't be poached by other F1 teams for 2018.
After the announcement of Felipe Massa's retirement from F1 at the end of the season Button has been heavily linked with a switch to Williams but Dennis confirmed the British driver will not compete for another F1 team while under his renewed contract.
“We have been open in saying Jenson has a two-year contract with the team,” he said. “When we get there [deciding on drivers for 2018] we will decide whether we will exercise it. At that point Jenson has to step into that situation with all the right motivation so it is not a one-way decision.
“What is clear is if Jenson is going to drive a Formula 1 car in 2018 I believe it can only be a McLaren, that is how it is structured. I don't think Jenson has a desire to drive anybody else's car. Jenson had offers to drive other cars with other teams but declined those offers.”
Latest Tweets from Crash.net & GPF1rst