Ross Brawn is continuing to play hardball with Jenson Button as the pair endeavour to come to some sort of resolution regarding the newly-crowned F1 World Champion's salary in 2010 – as McLaren-Mercedes waits in the wings should no deal be forthcoming.
Button surrendered about two-thirds of his annual £8 million retainer in the wake of parent company Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal late last year, agreeing to take a cut to help the Brackley-based outfit stay afloat over the difficult winter months as the team morphed slowly into Brawn GP.
Now, however, off the back of his title-winning run and the better financial health of the squad as a result of prize money and Virgin's involvement, the British star is pushing for his erstwhile pay packet to be re-instated – a request that Brawn, as team principal, is unwilling to meet, conceding only that the 29-year-old will be granted greater leeway to negotiate his own personal sponsorship agreements.
“We can offer a higher proportion of driver freedom,” the Englishman told British newspaper The Guardian
, “and that will probably be the route we will go. “Jenson has some freedom for his own endorsements, but he has a commitment to meet our obligations.”
Whilst Button has repeatedly made clear that staying with the team that supported him all the way to the drivers' crown is his favoured option, McLaren is also understood to have expressed an interest in securing the services of the Frome-born ace in-place of Heikki Kovalainen, in what would likely constitute an all-British line-up in 2010 alongside his predecessor as world champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Woking-based operation is currently baulking at Kimi Raikkonen's wage demands, but would likely be more capable of affording those of Button.