Ross Brawn has vehemently denied accusations that his team deliberately offered Jenson Button a low pay packet for next year in order to drive the 2009 F1 World Champion out of the door and make way for the incoming Michael Schumacher.
Following weeks of fevered speculation, it was finally confirmed yesterday (Wednesday) that the record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion and Mercedes Grand Prix – formerly Brawn GP, the outfit that spectacularly defeated the odds to sweep to both drivers' and constructors' glory in 2009 – are to join forces in 2010, reuniting the Schumacher/Brawn 'dream team' that together achieved no fewer than 91 grand prix victories and an unprecedented seven drivers' crowns at Benetton and Ferrari between 1991 and 2006.
The reunion only became possible after Button and Brawn proved unable to come to satisfactory terms regarding the level of the Frome-born ace's retainer for next season, prompting the 29-year-old to surprise practically the whole paddock in mid-November in jumping ship to join compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton at McLaren-Mercedes instead.
However, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug has revealed that 'it was probably about half a year ago that we (Mercedes and Schumacher) first had contact' [see separate story – click here
], causing many to question whether the Stuttgart manufacturer and Brawn ever truly wanted to keep Button in the first place or simply insisted on frustrating his financial ambitions in order to force him out. Far from it, Brawn contends.
“We made a good effort to find a solution with Jenson and it didn't work out,” the 55-year-old told the official F1 website. “Jenson made his decision in the end not to stay. We made a big effort to keep him, but it wasn't possible in the end.
“[The situation] overlaps, to be honest. I have a loyalty to Jenson so I hoped to find a solution, and when I saw that this would get difficult I started to talk to Michael, and things developed there. Michael and I kept very close over the years, and I saw from his disappointment over the summer – when he couldn't drive a Ferrari – how much passion he still has for the sport. When we started talking it was not a difficult discussion.
“Now, we are all very excited at the prospect of having Michael racing for us. He is the best judge of what he can do, and I trust him completely. He told me that he can do it, so I am very confident. He has always been his own best critic. He always knew best what he is capable of, so I put my trust in Michael and I am sure it won't be misplaced.”