Martin Whitmarsh has confessed that the intention at McLaren-Mercedes is to reach an arrangement with Jenson Button that would see the 2009 F1 World Champion conclude his top flight career with the team – and then perhaps go on to 'take on an ambassador's role'.
Contract talks between Button and McLaren have been ongoing for some time, with the British star widely expected to re-sign beyond the end of his current £6 million-a-year agreement with the team, having admitted just over a week ago that 'all Martin has got to do is say 'yes' and I will say 'yes', because I want to be here next year' [see separate story – click here
]. The only question, it would seem, regards just how long the new deal is for.
Whilst Whitmarsh is eager to secure Button's services for the long-term, the eleven-time grand prix-winner and his management team would prefer for the Woking-based outfit to simply take up the option that it has on him for 2012, and then look at what happens beyond that stage in due course.
With Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing and Felipe Massa at Ferrari both anticipated to leave their respective teams come the end of next year, two very attractive openings would be created – and it is understood that Button does not want to rule himself out of the equation. Whitmarsh, however, is convinced his driver is going nowhere.
“Jenson will be here next year,” the Englishman is quoted as having said by The Daily Telegraph
. “We know that, he knows that. There's nothing complicated about it, but we're looking to do a deal that will see him race for McLaren for the rest of his career. That may be for the next three years or the next five years. Who knows?
“Jenson is a mature and very intelligent guy, and he is still as fit as a flea and still hungry to race. He could take on an ambassador's role for McLaren [post-retirement from driving]. We're looking into GT racing and Le Mans, and there's no reason why he can't use his experience in those projects.”
reports that the key issues with respect to the long-term for Button are how many PR and sponsorship commitments the 31-year-old would be expected to undertake, given that he recently set up the London-based Sports Partnership in tandem with his manager Richard Goddard as he eyes an eventual move into driver management himself.