Jenson Button's manager Richard Goddard has again hit out at Brawn GP over the deadlock in contract negotiations between the two parties for F1 2010 – arguing that in being unwilling to pay the new world champion what he feels he deserves, the team is doing little to make its star driver feel 'wanted'.
Having taken a significant pay cut last winter in an effort to help the former Honda F1 outfit survive in the wake of the parent company's sudden and shock withdrawal from competition, Button is now pushing for his erstwhile £8 million salary to be re-instated – and, by virtue of his six grand prix victories and title success in 2009, he believes that is no less than he should get, particularly with rivals like Kimi Raikkonen reportedly receiving as much as nine times the figure the British ace did this season.
However, Brawn – who were funded largely by Honda and Richard Branson's Virgin empire in 2009 – are willing only to pay £4 million, and the continuing lack of progress in discussions led a frustrated Button and Goddard to visit McLaren-Mercedes late last week [see separate story – click here
], where the pair held talks with team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who is ostensibly seeking a replacement for the underperforming Heikki Kovalainen.
Were the Woking-based concern to steal Button away from Brawn's grasp, it would secure an all-British line-up in 2010 of the two most recent world champions, with 2008 title-winner Lewis Hamilton already firmly ensconced in the other cockpit on a long-term deal. According to The Times
, chief McLaren sponsor Vodafone is applying pressure on Whitmarsh to offer Button the £8 million he desires.
There are also suggestions that with Mercedes-Benz looking increasingly likely to reduce its involvement with McLaren in order to ramp up its relationship with Brawn – with a 75 per cent buy-in announcement expected possibly as early as this week – the German manufacturer would like an all-homegrown line-up of ex-Williams F1 star Nico Rosberg and BMW-Sauber refugee Nick Heidfeld on the driving strength.
Goddard contends that if Mercedes is about to plough funding into the team and the favoured option is
for Button to stay, team principal Ross Brawn should really be a little less intransigent in his refusal to compromise on money.
“Brawn have been saying for months that big sponsors are lined up for 2010,” he told the Daily Telegraph
, “and yet they are simultaneously saying that Jenson's demands – which are way less than under Honda – are not affordable.
“If they really can't afford him, then fair enough – I can quite understand Ross Brawn is reluctant to bankrupt the team for the sake of one guy – but if Brawn are going to sell the team, and there is going to be a big influx of money, then why shouldn't Jenson be making some of that? He was a major contributor to the team's success this year.
“We have got other irons in the fire. Ultimately, Jenson is a very loyal guy, but at some point it stops being about the money. Let's face it, everyone likes to feel wanted.”