Formula 1

McLaren confirm Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button for new Honda era

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Fernando Alonso will return to McLaren partnering Jenson Button in 2015 as a new era of Honda power begins.

The announcement was made at a press conference at the team's headquarters in Woking where months of speculation was finally brought to an end.

For Alonso it marks a surprise return to the team he fell out with so spectacularly in 2007, however, for the last few weeks it had been the fate of Jenson Button that had kept the F1 world holding its breath.

Indeed in the press release McLaren CEO Ron Dennis admitted the deal to bring back the former double world champion had been made weeks ago but the decision to hold back making it official hinged on who would be his partner.

Experience over potential

The team had to decide what its prime focus was, was it having the best possible pairing, in which case Jenson Button should get the nod, or was it about having a mix of youth and experience, giving the advantage to Kevin Magnussen.

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In the end it was McLaren's traditional approach of ensuring the best possible drivers were driving their cars as Button, and his legions of fans, heard the news they wanted as Magnussen drops down to reserve and test driver.

For the 34-year-old it means he will participate in his 16th consecutive Formula 1 season and sixth with McLaren. It also marks a reunion with the team's new engine supplier Honda, a company he had been associated for six seasons between 2003 and 2008 and was also the team that became Brawn GP in 2009, the year he became world champion.

As for Magnussen, despite a consistent rookie season in 2014, it marks a step back for the young Dane, however, the two sides remain fully together and the prospects of a return in the future are high.

Alonso's return overshadowed

Incredibly amidst all the support and backing to keep Button in F1, the magnitude of Alonso's move back to McLaren rather got lost in the background.

Of course much of that is due to the lack of surprise given the return had been largely anticipated ever since Sebastian Vettel announced he was leaving Red Bull back in October.

But while five disappointing years at Ferrari would be the catalyst for any driver who should be fighting for every world championship to look elsewhere, for Alonso this move is about history and joining a partnership made famous by his hero.

Following his hero

"I have never hidden my deep admiration for Ayrton Senna, my favourite driver, my idol on track, my reference," the Spaniard told the official McLaren website.

"I still remember, as a kid, the posters in my wardrobe, my toy cars in which I dreamed I would one day emulate Ayrton, and the kart that my father built for my older sister, and that I ended up falling in love with. That kart had the livery of one of the most legendary partnerships in the history of Formula 1, McLaren-Honda, the car that Ayrton drove, the same partnership to which I am now honoured to join, to take part in the next Formula 1 world championship."

McLaren's enthusiasm won Alonso over

While he admitted the move is one that may take some time to see results, Alonso said it was the enthusiasm of the McLaren Honda partnership to sign him up that ultimately persuaded him to join.

“Over the past year I have received several offers, some of them really tempting, given the current performance of some of the teams that showed interest. But, more than a year ago, McLaren-Honda contacted me and asked me to take part, in a very active way, in the return of their partnership – a partnership that dominated the Formula 1 scene for so long.

"McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision" - Fernando Alonso

“McLaren-Honda’s repeated and open desire, perseverance and determination in making it possible for me to join their exciting renewed partnership, have been some of the main factors that made me take this decision, not forgetting the most important factor of all: we share a common objective and expectations, and there is a very solid future, with confidence, ahead.

Button eager to get going

For Button, he praised his 2014 team-mate and revealed his happiness at Magnussen's continued involvement but admitted he was eager to start laying the foundations for another period of success for one of F1's great partnerships.

"Like Fernando, I am certain that McLaren and Honda will achieve great things together, and I feel sure that, working together, all of us will pull incredibly hard to create a brilliantly effective winning team," he also told the official website.

"I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go." - Jenson Button

"Being a part of new-look McLaren-Honda is a wonderful opportunity for all of us, and I am very pleased to have been invited to do my bit. In fact, I am absolutely raring to go.

"I am also very glad that Kevin will remain part of the team. He is a very quick driver and a really nice guy."

No repeat of 2007

The last time Alonso was at McLaren it was the relationship between he and Lewis Hamilton that proved fatal to the relationship between the two parties, however, Button says he expects few problems alongside the 33-year-old and is looking forward to the fight.

"I am very much looking forward to having a driver as fast and as experienced as Fernando as my team-mate," he said. "I am sure we will work extremely well together."

Looking forward

There has been so much analysis on which way McLaren should go in recent weeks that now the news is official its all about looking forward.

In Button and Alonso, McLaren have a line-up to rival the best teams on the grid and is certainly worthy of the McLaren Honda pedigree.

While there had been some calls, including from me, for Button to go and make his name elsewhere, now that he has been given the outcome he deserved by McLaren it is very fitting that the two names most synonymous with his F1 career should be together for what will likely be its last chapter.

As for Alonso, much like his former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, the move is a chance to prove that there is life in F1 after a spell at Maranello, whether he will be able to enjoy the same success with McLaren as Massa did at Williams next year remains to be seen but despite concerns some have given the events of 2007, I think it will be a very different story this time around.

There is no surprise factor as Hamilton was nearly eight years ago and as a person Alonso has matured and developed as a driver.

Roll on February!

It is an exciting time to be associated with McLaren and I would not be exaggerating by saying everyone will be watching when the MP4-30 rolls out the pit-lane and starts stretching its legs when pre-season testing starts in around seven weeks time.

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