Button to take Alonso's McLaren spot at Monaco

MANAMA • Britain's Jenson Button will stand in for Fernando Alonso at next month's Monaco Formula One Grand Prix while the Spaniard competes in the Indianapolis 500 on the same day, McLaren announced yesterday.

"I'm thrilled to be making a one-off return to Formula One racing, and I couldn't think of a better place to make that return than my adopted home Grand Prix: Monaco," the 37-year-old said in a statement at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Monaco resident Button handed over his McLaren seat to Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne at the end of last season but remained under contract to the team with the possibility of returning next year.

He won the showcase race in 2009 on his way to the title with Brawn GP.

Honda-powered McLaren have endured a tough start to the season, with no points from two races, but Monaco's tricky street circuit could suit their car better and is also one where drivers can make the difference.

Button will be the most experienced driver in the race as he makes his 306th start, with the Briton third in the all-time list behind retired pair Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher.

He is also the last driver to win a race for McLaren, at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2012, but cannot hope for such success this time.

"It's one of my all-time favourite racetracks," said the winner of 15 Grands Prix.

"Okay, I realise we won't have a realistic chance of repeating my 2009 victory, but I think we'll have an opportunity to score world championship points.

"As for Fernando, I hope he not only fares well at Indy but enjoys it too."

McLaren announced earlier in the week that two-time world champion Alonso would compete at Indianapolis with a car run by Andretti Autosport, last year's winners.

Alonso made it clear on Thursday that the uncompetitive level of his McLaren made his decision to miss the Monaco Grand Prix in favour of racing at the Indy 500 a straightforward one.

The Spaniard says his focus remains on Formula One, but pointed out that in the absence of a race-winning car, he wants to prove himself as a driver across different series.

Championship joint-leader Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest time for Ferrari in Friday's opening free practice session.

The four-time world champion recorded a best lap in 1min 32.697sec to be four-tenths of a second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull. Three-time champion Lewis Hamilton was in 10th for Mercedes.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 15, 2017, with the headline 'Button to take Alonso's McLaren spot at Monaco'. Print Edition | Subscribe