Button could race in Japan next year

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - McLaren’s Jenson Button could race in Rallycross or in Japan’s Super GT series when he takes a break from Formula One next year.

Formula One - F1 - Italian Grand Prix 2016 - Monza, Italy - 01/9/16 - McLaren's Jenson Button of Britain smiles during the news conference. REUTERS/Max Rossi

The 2009 world champion, who has spent almost two decades in grand prix racing, is handing over his race seat to Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne next season.

McLaren have retained the 36-year-old Briton under contract until the end of 2018, however, and could draft him in if a reserve is needed before then.

Button is the most experienced driver on the starting grid and while his sabbatical is likely to spell the end of his Formula One racing career, he said he could still compete elsewhere.

“I want to spend more time with friends, family and to do other things...I love triathlons and maybe I’ll race in something else like Rallycross or Super GT in Japan,” he told reporters at a promotional event in Singapore on Wednesday.

Super GT is a Japanese touring car series with some international races. Carmaker Honda, who make the NSX sportscar, is McLaren’s engine partner.

Button’s late father John was a rallycross driver.

“There are so many options and that’s why it’s exciting, because I can sort of live my life the way I want to next year,” said Button. “I have a contract to race with the team in 2018 if the team wants me to race and if I feel that I want to race.

“I’ve been driving in Formula One for 17 years, which is my whole adult life, so I want to live a year in my life that is not by (its) schedule.”

Button, who claimed the last of his 15 grand prix victories in Brazil four years ago, believes Formula One will benefit from a raft of technical and sporting rule changes for the 2017 season if they lead to a reining in of dominant Mercedes.

“I’m happy there are regulation changes for the future and hopefully it’ll bring people closer together,” Button said.

“Formula One needs that. There are so many good fights behind Mercedes in the rest of Formula One. There are so many good races but those two (Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg), it’s just too easy for them.”

Button is 15th in the drivers’ championship on 17 points after 14 of 21 races, with his best result a sixth-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix in July.

The Singapore Grand Prix takes place on Sunday.

Writing by John O’Brien; editing by Alan Baldwin