Former McLaren team-mates go head to head
Two of the most popular Grand Prix drivers in recent years will both be making their Le Mans debuts this year – Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
Alonso’s Le Mans ambitions have long been grabbing headlines, a line that threads back to when the Spaniard waved the Tricolore back in 2014. Button’s connection has been more one of answering questions of Le Mans only when asked ahead of his impending retirement – forced by Stoffel Vandoorne. It hadn’t previously been on his radar.
“I was team-mates with him for a few years,” Alonso said recently, “and I raced with him for 16 years. He was not willing to try different series outside of Formula 1 before.”
Button also said last year that he would only consider the top P1 class at Le Mans, nothing else. But while Alonso will be a good bet for outright glory this year in the factory Toyota, all things being equal Button will be aiming for a podium with Russian squad SMP Racing alongside former F1 racer Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin.
His chances of that look slim, probably needing two of the faster LMP1 cars – Toyota and top privateer Rebellion Racing – to hit trouble, such is their advantage. But it would need his own Dallara-built, AER-powered LMP1 to navigate the 24 hours without issue. And historically, that powerplant can prove temperamental.
Both Alonso and Button have been putting the yards in to prepare for the tricky traffic, Alonso racing and running well at Daytona as well as starting his full-time competitive endurance career at Spa last month with victory. Button meanwhile has opted for a season of Super GT in Japan and opened his account with a second-place finish.
Whatever the result, it’ll be fascinating to see how two of F1’s proper personalities manage what will feel like the longest week of their racing lives.