Formula One driver Jenson Button is set to become a Top Gear presenter, according to a report in the Mirror newspaper.
A source close to the Mirror said: “Jenson gets on brilliantly with Chris [Evans], and is of course a fantastic driver who can give viewers the benefit of his vast experience at the highest level.
“He is a global superstar; witty, articulate and popular with all ages and sexes. Jenson was first choice when the current line-up was being drawn up as he was expected to retire from Formula One but McLaren offered him a new deal and he decided to take it.
“He has had a miserable time with an uncompetitive car this year and paddock gossip claim his place in the team might be under threat next year.”
Insiders have said Button, who was born in Frome in Somerset and was Formula One champion in 2009, tops a “wish list” of potential presenters and guest stars and that he is ready to commit to Top Gear if there is a space for him.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact critics said 36-year-old Button, who was a guest on epsiode two of the revamped Top Gear, provided more of an in-depth analysis of the McLaren 675LT than lead presenter Evans.
Not only that, earlier in the year Evans had admitted Button was “so close” to becoming a presenter of Top Gear.
A BBC spokesperson tried to downplay news Button would now be joining the line-up for fear it would upset the current presenters, according to the Mirror report. When asked directly, the spokesperson added: “No chance.”
The third and latest episode of Top Gear saw motoring journalist Chris Harris and motoring journalist Rory Reid debut in the main show, as opposed to its sister program Extra Gear, to a warm reception. Evans, meanwhile, received more flak for his role in the show and was again accused of being ‘shouty’.
A report in the Telegraph claims Evans will take ‘a less prominent’ role in the show in a bid to help recover its viewing figures, which dipped to 2.37 million – the lowest since 2003 – and bring its £50 million annual revenue back on track.
But Reid has refuted the claim, saying that the plan was always to introduce Harris and himself after the first episode and is not a reflection of Evans being given less time in Top Gear.