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Alonso “Surprised” by Button’s Le Mans Drive

Fernando Alonso didn’t expect former teammate Jenson Button to join Le Mans LMP1 grid…

Photo: McLaren

Fernando Alonso says he was surprised by former Formula 1 teammate Jenson Button’s decision to contest this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Two-time Formula 1 champion Alonso, who won on his FIA World Endurance Championship debut with Toyota at Spa two weeks ago, will race directly against Button for overall honors at the French endurance classic.

Button, the 2009 Formula 1 world champion, meanwhile, will suit up for SMP Racing to drive a BR Engineering BR1 AER with Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin, while Alonso shares a Toyota TS050 Hybrid with Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.

Alonso said that Button’s move to a full-time drive in Super GT for 2018 probably helped sway the Briton’s interest toward Le Mans and LMP1.

“It was a nice surprise when he joined Super GT in Japan, and now it’s even more surprising he wants to do Le Mans now,” said Alonso.

“I’m only happy, because I think he’s a great driver, a great talent. To have him in any series is good for everyone. I’m sure he will enjoy Le Mans.

“Probably because he’s enjoying Super GT, it opened his eyes that the prototype was a good thing to do.

“I think it’s good that he tries different things. I was teammates with him for a few years, and I raced with him for 16 years. He was not willing to try different series outside of Formula 1 before.”

Alonso and Button are both signed to contest the remainder of the WEC ‘Super Season’, which includes the next two editions of Le Mans.

Button turned his first laps behind the wheel of the BR1 AER at Magny-Cours last week after skipping the Total Six Hours of Spa to focus on Super GT’s visit to Fuji.

At Spa, the Toyotas had the edge over the non-hybrid competition, with both cars finishing two laps ahead of the third-placed Rebellion R13 Gibson.

Meanwhile, Petrov and Aleshin finished fifth in the car that Button will be driving next month.

When asked if he is happy to fight against Button at Le Mans,  Alonso said he expects the Toyotas to have the advantage, but isn’t discounting the likelihood of the pair meeting on track.

“Yeah, definitely. I think it’s good,” said Alonso. “Obviously we need to see how other teams are. I think [at Spa] we had the first balance.

“In the Prologue we saw already how fast they are, so we’ll see how we can do in Le Mans and if we are fighting together.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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