Jenson Button: ‘Joy’ has gone

Jenson Button has admitted the “joy” of competing in Formula One is no longer there amidst mounting speculation he is set to announce his retirement in Japan.

Several British media outlets are reporting that Button will call time on his 16-year career in F1 at Suzuka this weekend after McLaren’s troublesome first season with Honda. McLaren has an option on Button’s contract for next season which expires at the end of September and Eric Boullier has said the team intends to retain the 2009 world champion for another year.

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However, Button and team-mate Fernando Alonso have endured a frustrating season with Honda’s uncompetitive and unreliable power unit and there is little sign a quick step forward is on the horizon. After another retirement in Singapore Button’s demeanour suggested he had lost motivation to carry on beyond the end of the current season.

“My head knows but my mouth and tongue doesn’t know,” Button said. “The joy of being in the car is only there if you’re fighting at the front, because you feel like you’re achieving something.

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“If you’re fighting near the back, you’re driving an F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else. The joy you get is from competing. It’s about fighting at the front. It’s about the possibility of standing on top of the podium. That’s the joy of F1.”

Button considers the Japanese Grand Prix to be a second home race due to his marriage to Jessica Michibata. It is an especially important weekend for McLaren given its new partnership with Japanese manufacturer Honda, meaning there will be increased media attention on the team.

The 2009 world champion hinted that a decision has already been made, though discussions will continue through to Suzuka this weekend.

“I have made that decision, that’s the important thing. It is always nice to make an announcement when you are at your home grand prix, but I don’t know what’s happening yet.

“There are a lot of meetings in Japan, Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier will be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of meetings at the headquarters.”