Lewis Hamilton has expressed a desire to see fellow Brit Jenson Button return to Formula One. The 2009 world champion retired at the end of last season after 16 years in the sport, but speculation regarding a one-off comeback has swirled since his former McLaren-Honda teammate Fernando Alonso revealed he will miss May's Monaco Grand Prix in order to race in the prestigious Indianapolis 500.
Button provided something of a social media teaser in the aftermath of Wednesday's (12 April) surprise announcement, asking on Twitter: "Why do I have so many missed calls?"
Rumours regarding his return have only intensified since then. Although McLaren executive director Zak Brown insists that a decision on Alonso's temporary replacement is yet to be reached, the BBC reports that there are no other serious options given the 37-year-old's contractual status as reserve driver that includes a commitment to him replacing any race driver unable to compete in a grand prix in 2017.
They further claim that Button, who could be obligated to return to McLaren on a full-time basis next season, "will race barring unexpected circumstances".
The issue of Alonso's replacement is the talk of the paddock heading into this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix and Hamilton, currently tied with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel atop of the drivers' standings , has now pledged his support to the man he raced alongside for three seasons at McLaren between 2010-12.
"I hope Jenson comes back, I think it would be great for the sport to have Jenson back in," the Mercedes favourite told reporters at a press conference in Sakhir.
Asked why, he added: "Because I like Jenson, I still think he is one of the best drivers... his calibre is still higher than any other driver who could take that spot, for sure. His calibre and experience."
Speaking yesterday, Brown said: "Fernando's replacement driver is not in place. Those conversations are ongoing, we have a few different options, we will state who that is when we know.
"Eric [Boullier], who runs the F1 team, is ultimately responsible for making the recommendation as to what driver should go in the car and I think he will be here at the weekend so I can save questions for him. He is working on it. I wouldn't want to share the conversations he has had."
Current Alonso teammate Stoffel Vandoorne is also none the wiser as to who will deputise for the Spaniard while he competes across the Atlantic in what is described as a "McLaren-entered, Honda-powered car prepared by the Andretti Autosport team". However, he trusts McLaren to reach the correct decision.
"I'm sure the team have everything under control," he said. "I don't know yet who it will be – it's not in my hands in the end – but I'm sure the team will pick the right driver."