McLaren rejects Button comeback criticism
McLaren has rejected suggestions Jenson Button is not fully committed to his one-off Formula 1 return as Fernando Alonso's Monaco Grand Prix stand-in.
Officially a McLaren reserve this year having stepped out of his race seat following the 2016 season, Button was swiftly announced as Alonso's Monte Carlo substitute after the Spaniard's Indianapolis 500 plan was revealed.
But 2009 world champion Button turned down the chance to test the '17 McLaren-Honda in Bahrain last month and has concentrated on running Monaco in the simulator instead.
His friend Mark Webber recently suggested Button was 'not very interested' in the race.
But McLaren Technology Group chief operating officer Jonathan Neale denied Button's return was half-hearted.
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"I've read that and I've seen that, but I don't necessarily agree with it," Neale told Autosport.
"Jenson is certainly putting time in behind the scenes to prepare well for it.
"He's done multiple sessions in the simulator, just doing the one track, and also just familiarising himself with the car, the tyres, the power unit, the balance, and the braking performance.
"I think he's got his head in for this race, without a shadow of a doubt."
Neale suggested Webber's comments were "banter".
"He's good mates with Webber, and I don't dispute that there's a lot of banter going on on the background," said Neale.
"I think it's good-natured banter, and I think we'll see him focused."
Button won in Monaco during his championship season with Brawn GP in 2009.
"Monaco is perhaps one of those circuits where the driver contribution matters proportionately more than on other circuits," Neale added.
"He knows it well, he's been very successful there, and he's a good racer.
"It's Monaco, anything could happen, but you nudge the odds in your favour by being well-prepared and putting world champions in the car."
Neale acknowledged that Button, who has focused largely on triathlons in recent months, has plenty of other interests to occupy him this season.
"Jenson is a competitive guy, whether it's running, cycling, swimming, motor racing, he wants to be competitive," he said.
"He's worked incredibly hard, and the drivers sacrifice a lot through their young years, so why would be not be enjoying some of the things he wants to do on his agenda?
"So I completely get that. There are worse things to do than hang out in California!
"But at the end of the day he's still a racer at heart, and it will be nice to have him back."