Martin Whitmarsh has confirmed that, while terms have yet to be agreed, McLaren is determined to retain the services of Jenson Button next season.
The 2009 world champion was thrown into the 'silly season' discussion as F1 resumed at the Belgian Grand Prix, having revealed that he had yet to ink an extension to his current contract with the Woking team. With his current deal due to expire at the end of August, and Red Bull confirming that it would not now be making a decision on Mark Webber's replacement until the Italian Grand Prix at the earliest, the coincidence added Button to RBR's list of possibles.
Button also repeated his admiration for Ferrari, which he has previously included among the teams he would love to drive for before he retired from the top flight, and was duly included as a potential team-mate for either Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa, depending on what happens in the driver market over the next few weeks.
Whitmarsh, however, made it clear that McLaren has no intention of allowing Button to walk away as it seeks to retain an unchanged partnership with Sergio Perez.
"I don't think we'll be letting Jenson go,” he told Sky Sports News
after Friday practice in Belgium, “I think he's a great asset and I think we're going to sit down and talk through a few things.
“He's done a fantastic job ever since he's been in this team. We've had some great years and great wins with him. You look at the number of points he's won - he actually out-pointed Lewis during that time - and he's doing a great job this year. I think we'll see him here for a few years to come."
Whitmarsh's assertion that Button would remain onboard at Woking will come as another blow to former McLaren favourite Kimi Raikkonen, who appears less and less likely to remain at Lotus but could find doors elsewhere closing on him while he seeks the right deal for 2014 and beyond.
The Finn was thought to have been the favourite to partner Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull only for his manager to claim that talks had broken down. He was then linked to Ferrari, despite an acrimonious parting in 2009, but reports confirm that factions in the team are wary of partnering him with Alonso. Nico Hulkenberg waits in the wings for both Lotus and Ferrari, while Red Bull boss Christian Horner insists that the world champions remain spoiled for choice when it comes to replacing Mark Webber....