Jenson Button to race at Le Mans as he lands SMP Racing LMP1 drive

2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button has confirmed he will join SMP Racing for the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship 'Super Season'.

Button, who retired from F1 at the end of 2016 (although made a one-race return at Monaco in 2017), has been competing in Japan's Super GT, but announced on Friday that he will be joining Vitaly Petrov and Mikhail Aleshin behind the wheel of the #11 prototype BR1 LMP1 car.

Button's debut will come at the world-famous 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. He will therefore skip the opening race at Spa-Francorchamps due to a Super GT clash, but will compete in the seven following WEC events, as well as the season-ending second running of Le Mans next year.

"I'm happy to be part of the SMP Racing team at the World Endurance Championship," said Button.

"My partners this year will be Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov. I know Vitaly well on his performance in Formula 1, and Mikhail - on his success in IndyCar. I think that with them two and the experience that we have accumulated in different racing series, as well as with the fantastic experience of the team in the endurance race, we will have a wonderful chance to fight in the front ranks and claim victory. I'm looking forward to the race."

Team founder and head of the SMP Racing program, Boris Rothenberg, added: "I am pleased to welcome Jenson Button as part of our team. This is an outstanding world-class pilot and world champion of Formula 1.

"He will perform in the crew with our strongest pilots, Mikhail Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov, in the car of the highest category LMP1 - BR1. 

"This machine is built by the best specialists of the Russian company BR Engineering and the Dallara concern, using the latest technology of world motorsport. We are all confident that the crew will be very strong and will be worthy of competition to rivals from around the world."

SMP Racing will field two cars, with the #17 piloted by Egor Orudzhev, Matevos Isaakyan and Stephane Sarrazin.