Jenson Button's F1 finale ends early with steering failure

McLaren driver Jenson Button of Britain puts on his fire-hood during the first free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Luca Bruno/AP

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.

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.

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.

He stepped out and waved to the crowd one last time before being comforted by mechanics and his mother.

Button is making way for Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, who will partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren next year.

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.