By Alan Baldwin
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Jenson Button retired from his last Formula One race with a wave to the fans and a standing ovation on Sunday after clouting a kerb and damaging his McLaren’s front right suspension.
“We have a failure, guys,” said the 2009 world champion, who said this week that the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would be his last despite having a contract that would allow a return in 2018.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a failure like this.”
The popular Briton got out of his car in the pitlane and stood on it to salute the crowd, who returned the gesture with a standing ovation of their own, before giving his mother Simone a hug.
The 12th lap retirement brought down the curtain on a career spanning 17 years and 305 races, and one championship with the Brawn GP team that became Mercedes.
“Forgetting the race — I’ve always said it’s one race weekend out of 305. The result doesn’t matter, it’s the weekend that counts and it’s just been awesome,” Button told the BBC.
“Very emotional… amazing day and an amazing weekend. I’ve really savored every moment of it.”
He will be replaced at McLaren, whose most recent victory was provided by the 36-year-old in Brazil in 2012, by Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne.
Button had started the day recognizing it was a momentous one for him.
“Today is the day that I will be strapped into an F1 car for probably the last time,” he had said on his Instagram feed, promising to give it his all from the moment the lights went out to the chequered flag.
“Whatever happens today I will always know I reached my goal and dream in life to become a Formula One World Champion. I arrived with dreams and leave with memories.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)