Ross Brawn has revealed that he was 'very disappointed' with the manner in which Jenson Button left the team that carried him to F1 World Championship glory this year – as it emerged that an offer of £12 million had been on the table until the British star breached the terms of his contract by visiting McLaren-Mercedes' Surrey headquarters.
It was officially announced yesterday (Wednesday) that Button has signed a three-year deal with McLaren that will see him partner compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton on an annual salary of £6 million [see separate story – click here
However, despite it having been understood that Brawn had been willing to pay just £4 million – half the sum Button was seeking for 2010, and a figure branded 'frankly spurious' by Nick Fry – it now appears a far greater offer had been made before the Frome-born ace angered his bosses by visiting Woking last Friday. Whilst there, he spent a considerable amount of time in discussions with team principal Martin Whitmarsh – in what was regarded by Brawn as a clear breach of his contract with the Brackley-based outfit.
According to the Daily Express
, the relationship between Button and Brawn 'broke down so badly that they removed an offer that could have been worth £12 million next year before he signed for McLaren', after the 29-year-old 'was left in no doubt that he had let [the team] down in a 'phone call with Brawn at the weekend'.
That 'phone call, it is reported, led to the £12 million offer – a base salary of £8 million, supplemented by £4 million in points bonuses – being rescinded, and just two days later Button was a McLaren driver, to the evident dismay of Brawn, who confessed that he 'was very disappointed at the way things finished up with Jenson'.
There has also been speculation that the 75 per cent Mercedes buy-in – with Brawn GP henceforth to be known as Mercedes Grand Prix – and talk that the Stuttgart manufacturer is plotting an all-German 'super team' had increased the tension, with The Times
stating that neither Button nor his management team had taken calls from Mercedes for more than a week.
Moreover, in light of the significant injection of cash from Brawn's new majority shareholder, the seven-time grand prix-winner is said to have been pushing for a better financial offer – but Mercedes Grand Prix CEO Fry is adamant that money was not the straw that broke the camel's back.
What's more, the Englishman questioned whether Button fully appreciates what he is doing in entering the lion's den in a team that has been largely built around Hamilton over the last three years, suggesting that the decision lacked logic and contending that the new world champion will have to raise his game if he is to beat the former world champion in his own back yard.
“We offered loyalty which we hoped, perhaps naïvely, he would return,” Fry told the Daily Mirror
. “There is bravery and there is stupidity, and we will only find out which it is next year.
“We believe we made Jenson a good offer – one that was significantly more than he is being paid at McLaren. We are all mystified by this decision. We think he has been badly advised and had his head turned by McLaren's glitzy headquarters.”
“We made him an honest offer,” concurred Mercedes Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, speaking to German media, “but without him we can start with a clean slate. We wish him all the best.”