Talks between newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button and Brawn GP 'have certainly not broken down', but the British star would equally have no qualms about going up against compatriot Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes – that is the assertion of his manager Richard Goddard, as rumours continue to be cast into doubt by counter-rumours.
After visiting the state-of-the-art McLaren factory in Surrey late last week, it has been reported today that Button has all-but agreed a £6 million-a-year deal to switch camps from Brackley to Woking in F1 2010, where he would be able to measure himself head-to-head against his title-winning predecessor Hamilton, a man regarded by some as the fastest driver on the grid in terms of outright raw pace [see separate story – click here
]. Goddard is adamant that his driver could adequately handle such a task.
“It is not every day you get a call from a team like Ferrari or McLaren,” he is quoted as having said by the News of the World
. “Jenson would have no problems being Lewis' team-mate. He would relish the challenge, as long as he could make sure the development of the car suited him.
“Jenson was very impressed with the facilities at Woking. It is an incredible place but, at the end of the day, he doesn't care if the car is built in a shed as long as it can win. That is the most important thing for Jenson. This is not about money, but you've got to remember that an F1 driver's career is a short one.”
Indeed, money has been the crux of the deadlock in negotiations between Button and Brawn – now Mercedes Grand Prix – over the renewal of the Frome-born ace's contract in recent weeks. The 29-year-old surrendered two-thirds of his erstwhile £8 million annual pay packet last winter to enable the team to survive amid the post-Honda fall-out, but despite the fact that the squad is now far more financially stable than it was twelve months ago, team principal Ross Brawn is unwilling to re-instate Button's former salary – prompting the McLaren talks. Whilst some are surmising that the seven-time grand prix-winner is now as good as gone from Brawn, Goddard suggests otherwise.
“Jenson has the utmost respect for boss Ross Brawn and the team,” he urged. “Talks have certainly not broken down. He has been incredibly loyal to the team for many years, which is why the decision is so hard. Hopefully things will be sorted out in the next couple of weeks, so we can all take a break.”