Jenson Button's F1 finale ends early with steering failure

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Jenson Button's Formula One farewell ended in sad style when he retired early in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday because of a suspension problem.

Button has an option to drive for the McLaren team in 2018, but he said before this race that he does not expect to come back.

''My race was short, but I loved everything else. I was really emotional before I got in the car,'' Button said. ''It was such a special atmosphere to have the whole team and all my friends and family cheering me on my way into the garage. I'm just glad I was wearing my sunglasses at that moment.''

He was on lap 13 when some sparks flew off his car and he went straight on and cut over some grass before getting back on track. The British driver appeared to be struggling with a suspension or a steering issue.

''I don't think we've ever had a failure like this,'' a despondent Button said as his car limped back into the garage. ''I'm just glad I was able to figure it out before I hit the brakes. It's always been a massive strength of our team that components so rarely fail, but today of all days something did.''

Button, a hugely popular figure among fans and other drivers alike, stepped out and waved to the crowd one last time before being comforted by mechanics and his mother.

''I'm very content with all I've achieved in my career,'' Button said. ''Now, it's done.''

Button is making way for Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who will partner two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren next year while Button works in an advisory role within the team.

''It's a shame that Jenson's final race came to an early end, but he'll still be around next year,'' said Alonso, who finished the race in 10th place. ''He'll be a huge asset for us in his new role.''

The 36-year-old Button won the F1 title against the odds in 2009 for the Brawn team, and has 15 GP victories overall.

After competing in his first F1 race at age 20, this race was his 305th GP start, putting him just one behind seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher of Germany.

''I'm holding it together,'' an emotional Button said before the race when the drivers were paraded around the track.

Unfortunately, he did not get the farewell he craved and a mechanical failure denied him one last checkered flag.

''I live in the moment, though,'' Button said. ''Tonight's going to be a hell of a lot of fun.''