Abu Dhabi: A devastated Jenson Button said his retirement from his final grand prix — the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — was a failure like no other on Sunday.
The 2009 world champion’s front right tyre gave way on the 13th lap of the Yas Marina Circuit race, forcing him into the garage and an early finish.
It brought an end to a 305-race career that started with Williams in 2000 and included 15 race wins and a world title with Brawn seven years ago.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a failure like this,” Button said on the radio, before leaping out of the car.
Having saluted the crowd standing on his cockpit, the Briton was greeted by his mum and McLaren backroom staff.
Ahead of the season-ending race, he had posted an emotional message to his official Instagram page.
The 36-year-old also paid tribute to his late father John, saying he hoped he would be looking down on him.
Button wrote: “So I hear today is a pretty big day for me! Today is the day that I will be strapped into an F1 car for probably the last time. It’s been an eventful 17 years!
“I’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone that has helped and supported me through the years including family, friends, team members and fans and last but not least my dad who I’m hoping is looking down on us with pride, miss you papa.
“From when the light goes out at the start of my final race here in Abu Dhabi to when the chequered flag drops, I will give it my all and drive with my heart knowing that 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.”
Button had initially said he would take a sabbatical from F1 and return in 2018, after being a McLaren ambassador and test driver.
But on Thursday, he confirmed his intention to retire and he will be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne.