Button's F1 return gets off to a mixed start at Monaco GP
McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain arrives for the first free practice during the Formula One Grand Prix at the Monaco racetrack in Monaco, Thursday, May 25, 2017. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday.. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)
JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
MONACO (AP) — Jenson Button's one-off return to Formula One racing at the Monaco Grand Prix got off to a mixed start during practice on Thursday.
There was frustration, an audacious overtaking move on former teammate Lewis Hamilton for old time's sake, and some awkward technological issues to grapple with. At least he stayed on the track, which has not always been the case for McLaren this season.
"I had a little giggle to myself that I was driving a Formula One car again," said Button, who came out of retirement just for this race. "There's a lot to come and hopefully I can sort myself out after I've been through the data."
His last drive was the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP in November. Since then, rule changes have made the cars heavier, faster and wider.
"There was so much more grip and it's just very different to what I've experienced," said Button, the 2009 F1 champion.
In the morning's first practice, he posted the 14th quickest time. There was one minor blip, however, as he pressed a wrong button and put his car into neutral. Things were smoother in the afternoon, where he placed 12th, but the British driver got flustered by other drivers.
"People still drive like (expletive)," Button said. "Some things don't change."
Button is taking two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso's seat for this race because McLaren has allowed the Spaniard to make his IndyCar debut at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
Button used humor to explain how he agreed on his comeback.
"I asked my dogs and they said 'We can do without you for a week or so,'" Button said. "I was going to be here anyway, and instead of sitting around drinking champagne I can actually do what I'm supposed to do — race cars for a living."
He will need to be at his best, considering McLaren has not scored a point after five races, as it struggles with its Honda engine.
Alonso failed to finish the first three races and did not even start the fourth.
Hope was briefly raised two weeks ago when Alonso finished 12th at the Spanish GP — but clutching at straws just shows how far confidence has been shaken.
At least the 37-year-old Button came to Monaco in great shape. He has been training hard for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon series world championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in September.
"Might as well aim to win it," he said. "That's my aim, as an age-grouper though, not as a professional."
He has no plans to emulate Alonso in IndyCar — but would consider other options.
"I'd like to do (the) Le Mans (24 Hours endurance race) one day," Button said. "I would like to race in NASCAR — that would be fun."