In Depth

Jenson Button poised to quit Formula 1 for Top Gear role

The British world champion is expected to announce his retirement from the sport after a glittering 16-year career

Formula 1 driver Jenson Button is expected to announce his retirement from the sport this week and could end up with a part in the BBC's revamped Top Gear show.

The McLaren driver, who won the world championship in 2009, failed to finish the Singapore Grand Prix and has just six points to his name so far this season.

With only eight days until the option on his McLaren deal runs out, most observers expect the 35-year-old to walk away from the sport.

"One of the most popular drivers of his generation is preparing to hang up his racing helmet and overalls after a 16-year career that has touched the heights and plumbed extraordinary depths, none more so than a season that has tested even his resilience and patience," writes Kevin Eason of The Times.

McLaren's "long slide to obscurity" has blighted the past three seasons of Button's career, and they could be his last. "Singapore on Sunday was the last desperate staging post for a team hampered by hopelessly uncompetitive Honda engines," Eason writes.

Damon Hill believes Button is already "demob happy" reports The Guardian. Hill, a Sky Sports, pundit points out that Button has won the world championship and cannot be content scraping along at the back of the grid. He was happy to stick with McLaren this season in the hope that a tie-up with Honda would offer some prospect of an improvement.

It has not worked and "it would be extraordinary if McLaren pulled a rabbit out of the hat next year", says Hill. "They are looking at another season of consolidation and slight improvement."

It means that Button has "decided to bow out on his terms after another season in an uncompetitive car", claims Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph and his "departure will leave Formula One a vastly poorer sport".

He has 15 victories, 50 podium finishes and 278 race starts, which make him the third most experienced driver of all time, adds Johnson.

The driver's decision to quit may leave McLaren and F1 bereft, but Button will have "no lack of offers because Button is a PR man's dream, popular with fans of all ages and nationalities," says Eason of The Times.

"He is known to have had negotiations with the formidable Porsche World Sportscars squad that won the Le Mans 24-hours this year and a victory at that blue riband event would be an historic addition to his 2009 F1 world championship," while there have been persistent rumours that he could team up with his friend Chris Evans as a host of the BBC's new-look Top Gear.

"He is open to the idea as long as he could find time to drive," claims Eason.

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