Recently-crowned 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button has reportedly come to an agreement to join title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes from 2010 on a three-year deal – as a former team owner predicts an all British line-up at Woking, and an all-German alliance at the newly-rebranded Mercedes Grand Prix.
According to British newspaper The Guardian
, Button has 'agreed terms' with McLaren for 2010, 2011 and 2012 on an annual £6 million retainer – £2 million a year more than his current employers Brawn GP have been willing to pay for his services – and could officially sign the contract 'within the next few days' following a visit to the team's Surrey factory at the end of last week.
Button has been locked in stalled negotiations for some weeks now with Brawn over his pay packet, two-thirds of which he voluntarily surrendered last winter in order to help the Brackley-based operation stay afloat in the wake of parent company Honda's sudden and shock withdrawal from top flight competition.
Now, it would seem, the 29-year-old's patience has finally run out with the 'lip service' being paid to him by Brawn – and an added incentive of a McLaren switch is the opportunity to measure himself against good friend Hamilton, a man regarded by some as out-and-out the fastest driver on the grand prix grid.
On the negative side, Button's purported new salary is still only around half of what Hamilton is paid, and it has been contended that the move represents a backwards step in some respects, departing the safe and comfortable confines of Brawn for the lion's den of what is regarded in some circles as Hamilton's team.
What's more, yesterday's announcement that Mercedes has relinquished its 40 per cent stake in McLaren in favour of purchasing 75 per cent of Brawn and renaming the team in its own image could threaten to turn the multiple world champions into something of a second-string effort for the Stuttgart manufacturer.
There has also been fevered speculation that the three-pointed star has its sights set on an all-homegrown line-up – almost certainly involving ex-Williams F1 star Nico Rosberg, possibly alongside experienced and regularly underrated BMW-Sauber refugee Nick Heidfeld. That is a theory to which Eddie Jordan – who ran his own eponymously-named outfit in F1 until he sold out to Midland in 2005, and has since gone on to become a pundit for the BBC
– evidently subscribes.
“Clearly Mercedes have been planning for some time to buy into Brawn, and of course they are looking for two German drivers,” the ever-colourful Irishman told BBC Radio
. “If that's a German team, that opens the door for Jenson to go somewhere like McLaren and create this wonder team of British stars.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, however, refuted such talk, with new Mercedes Grand Prix CEO Nick Fry adding that the notion is 'totally incorrect – Mercedes is an international company'. The Englishman moreover insisted that whilst the goal is to continue to retain Button into next season and beyond, it cannot be at any price, with no raised offer regardless of the new cash injection.