Jenson Button could have gone elsewhere in Formula 1 in 2009, it has been claimed, but he elected to put everything he had behind Brawn GP as it is a 'team he believes in so strongly' – and, contrary to popular perception, 'money isn't everything' to him.
The 29-year-old has often been portrayed as a playboy who has made his career choices based largely on financial motives, rather than upon which team is going to give him the best chance of on-track success. In evidence of that, people point to his decision to remain at Honda in 2006 rather than return to Williams with whom he had made his grand prix debut six years earlier – at a reputed cost to the Japanese manufacturer of some $30 million.
However, the British star has recently dispelled much of that cynicism with the revelation that he volunteered to take what amounts to more than a 50 per cent pay cut over the coming three years, in a bid to make sure that the new, Ross Brawn-led Brawn GP outfit – risen from the ashes of what was Honda – makes the starting grid. It is, his spokesman contends, proof of just how serious Button is about succeeding with the Brackley-based concern.
“After pushing so hard to get Ross to join Honda, and then working so hard with him throughout a very difficult 2008, he was determined to show his solidarity with, and faith in, the team,” the spokesman is quoted as having said by F1SA
“We had some other options in theory, but he told me that money isn't everything. There was no way he was going to do anything but drive that car. He didn't want to give up on a team he believes in so strongly.”
Button's determination to come out of the other end of the long winter tunnel with 'Honda' saw him risk his 153-race F1 career going into neutral had the team not been saved, with no guarantee that he would have been able to find a way back onto the starting grid again in 2010.
Moreover, it is believed there was interest in him from Scuderia Toro Rosso for the upcoming campaign, explaining why the Red Bull 'junior' squad took so long in announcing its second driver for the year.
It also remains to be seen whether Brawn GP has landed or will land any significant sponsorship deals for the season ahead, with rumours about a potential tie-up with UAE airline company Emirates proving to contain little truth, and unconfirmed speculation in the French media that Austrian sports betting organisation Bwin may be interested in getting involved.
Throughout 2007 and 2008, Honda ran with the 'Earth Dreams' logo, after it had proven unable to attract any major backers. Should no sponsors be forthcoming in 2009 either, it is expected that Brawn GP will be substantially the poorest team in the paddock. Some are suggesting that the strong pace shown by the new BGP001 in testing in Barcelona this week is a false representation, with the sole aim of trying to attract interested parties.
The retention of both Button and experienced team-mate Rubens Barrichello at Brawn GP this year means that eight of the ten teams will field an identical line-up to 2008. Only Red Bull Racing (Sebastian Vettel in for the retired, BBC
-bound David Coulthard) and Toro Rosso (rookie Sébastien Buemi replacing Vettel) have made changes.