Mercedes or McLaren? Button’s decision

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Either Mercedes or McLaren will have the coveted number one next year
Either Mercedes or McLaren will have the coveted number one next year

Depending on who you believe, Jenson Button may already have signed for McLaren.

But many people thought the same about Kimi Raikkonen a few weeks ago. And it’s hard to believe Button would voluntarily leave the team that made him champion after sticking by them for so long. Which team will he pick for 2010?

Mercedes Grand Prix

Button voluntarily took a substantial pay cut earlier this year when Brawn had to lay off some staff to save money.

He believes his new world champion status means his salary should go up again. And with the long-term future of the team formerly known as Brawn secured, they should be able to afford it.

But Mercedes know that if they are to stick to the cost reduction proposal agreed with the FIA they need to keep their spending down. And driver salaries is one of the biggest expenses to cut.

So, while some have pointed to Mercedes’ apparent desire to have a German driver in the team, that isn’t necessarily the only reason why a deal with Button hasn’t been done yet.

Nor is it certain they are after two German drivers. After all, apart from Adrian Sutil (who drove for a Mercedes customer team this year) they haven’t been associated with a German racing driver in F1 since 1994.


However if Button does choose McLaren – who are apparently offering more money – no-one could accuse him of taking the soft option. Going up against Lewis Hamilton in the team he has made his own will be ferociously difficult.

Talk of the Hamilton situation at McLaren always provokes fierce debate as we all remember how Fernando Alonso stormed out of the team after a single season.

And Heikki Kovalainen, who looks likely to leave the team whether or not Button comes in, complained Hamilton got preference on new parts put on the car. That may simply be because Hamilton’s proved himself the better driver. But McLaren would have a hard time justifying a similar situation if it had Britain’s two most recent world champions as its drivers.

Differences between Button and Hamilton’s driving styles will be another problem. Hamilton is known to prefer an oversteering car; Button thrives on an understeer-biased set-up. Work on the MP4/25 has already begun and decisions that affect the fundamental balance of the car will already have been taken. Such as weight distribution, which will be especially crucial with larger fuel tanks and narrower front tyres next year.

None of this is to say McLaren is an unattractive option – the team have brilliant facilities and a track record of building great cars and quickly rectifying poor ones. But it’s not an easy option.

The decision

To say Button’s choice is a diffiicult one is a serious understatement. And it’s an unusual one for a newly-crowned champion to face. Yes, Alonso left Renault after winning the 2006 title for them, but that decision had been made the previous winter.

Appropriately, it’s a pair of British drivers that have the most recent experience of this dilemma: Damon Hill in 1996, leaving Williams for Arrows, and Nigel Mansell in 1992, who also left Williams – and F1 entirely – to race in CART.

Champions usually prefer stability, and that’s what many of Britain’s elder F1 statesmen have urged Button to pick. If he does go to McLaren to take on Hamilton, many will conclude he only did so because the Mercedes option was unworkable.

Where do you think Button should go in 2010? And where do you think he will end up? Have your say below.

Read more: Mercedes Grand Prix take over Brawn for 2010 ?ǣ but what about Jenson Button?

84 comments on “Mercedes or McLaren? Button’s decision”

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  1. Button should stay at Brawn/Mercedes. But I think he will go to McLaren.

    Unfortunately for Jenson, going to Woking means that he will be #2 to Hamilton in every sense, except that it’ll say #1 on his car …. for one season only.

    I fear we are seeing the next Kimi….wins one title, then follows the money for the rest of his career.

    1. I have to disagree Red Andy. Don’t you think that after being loyal to the team and taking a massive pay cut for 09, followed by bringing home the WDC and helping towards the WCC, Button deserves more than the 4.5m or so Mercedes Brawn are offering him? The guy just wants a suitable wage and some sort of return for his loyalty and personal financial sacrifice. I think that’s fair enough.

      1. I’m not so sure. There were many questioning Button by the end of the season and that will have brought his value down. Not only that but it’s still very tough financial times so I think that huge sums of money aren’t going to impress the teams-probably why Kimi’s deals have taken so long and the Finn is generally rated higher than Button.
        Jense should just go with the best deal, forgetting money but about the team. He wants to feel more valued and I can understand the tactics but in the end it should always come down to the best package and not money.

      2. Jenson may have taken a “massive” pay cut but the guy is still earning millions, I bet all the people who lost their jobs after Honda pulled out weren’t earning millions before they were made redundant to save costs.

        Button should stay with Mercedes because he will be the number one driver in a winning team AND he can still earn millions. There’s not much you can do with £6m that you can’t do with £4m.

        1. K, look at mercedes they are pretty fixed on having rosberg being german and all, so if button ends up at mercedes he could play 2nd driver, despite being WDC. so button faces a problem of which team is likely to provide a car more suited to him, which would be mercedes, there car being based on the BGP001 chassis

        2. While I agree that Button wouldn’t struggle financially if he accepted what Brawn offered, you can’t blame him for trying to get what he thinks is market value for the current World Champion especially when he took a pay cut to save the team before the season.

        3. If you look at what Button got paid last season compared to many other drives he was underpaid.

      3. well said, he did help Brawn and his team to be a viable option for a buy out by Merc, and increased Brawns wallet, so it’s only fair the world champ wants his pre-good will gesture wage back.

        One thing to note from the above article, is in relation to cost cutting…the drivers wages aren’t include in the cost cutting ‘cap’.

    2. couldn’t agree with you more red andy

  2. I hope he does go to McLaren. It’s refreshing to see a driver challenge himself, especially when he has already won a title. Granted, he will be getting himself more money, but he is putting his reputation and championship credibility on the line by taking on Hamilton in equal machinery.

    It was frustrating to see the likes of Schumacher and Alonso demand #1 status and subservient/poor quality teammates.

    As for driving styles, Prost and Senna were different. Similar to Button/Hamilton, but McLaren made it work (when they weren’t taking each other out!). Were the cars easier to set up to opposing styles back then?

  3. I think he should go to Mercedes and I think he will end up there.
    Prisoner Monkeys found a report that they are offering similar money to Mclaren now and meeting Button’s demands. Button may have a chance at being number 1 in the Mercedes team but it’ll be a lot tougher at Mclaren.
    I also want to see Kimi at Mclaren. I’ve been dreaming of the pantomine and epic Ferrari Felipe Fernando vs Mclaren Lewis Kimi for so long (and young star Seb in RBR)that I’ll be very upset if it doesn’t happen.

  4. The Honda driver has torn up his £24m three-year deal, accepting £9m instead to help out the troubled team.

    He also agreed to pay the travel and hotel costs incurred by himself and his entourage which could well exceed £250,000 over the course of the 17-race season.

    If he has 9 million an only pays £250,000 for his entourage thats still £8,750,000. That’s still a mighty amount of money in anyone’s language.

    Jenson should stay. He could build on this season’s success and maybe do a Schumacher and win several titles. All driver wages will come down with the cost cutting that will is suppposed to happen over the next few years anyway.

    Then again, we don’t really know what is happening behing the scenes in Brackley.

    I’ll be looking forward to a great season regardless of who ends up where, as I don’t follow any one team or driver. I just like the racing.

    1. I think if driver salaries do come down in the coming years it will be more down to the economic climate than the cost cutting, as driver salaries are one of the items not included in the cost cutting measures, unless they try to change the proposals.

      Teams may give cost cutting as a reason for offering lower salaries to drivers, but the top drivers are always likely to command big sums if the teams have the ability to pay them.

      It could even be argued that if the cost cutting measures mean that a top team spends say £100m less per season but their income is still the same they would be tempted to spend more on getting the best possible drivers. That has been the problem with trying to limit spending in one particular area, the teams will just divert their resources to wherever else they think they can make a difference.

  5. In a way I hope he ends up at McLaren. Everyone will then see what I have been saying all year, i.e. that he is nothing more than a mediocre driver and nowhere near the level of the F1 elite (Kimi, Lewis, Alonso, Kubica and soon to include Vettel). It can’t be much fun following Lewis to the finish line in every race.

    Brawn of course knew this (Button’s ability level) all along, which is why they offered him a reduced salary in order to retain the sheet and will absolutely not offer him a penny more than what’s already on the table. If he were a true top-level driver, there would be more money offered and a higher sense of urgency to get him re-signed.

    He is a mediocre driver and the seat he is about to get fits him perfectly: 2nd fiddle to a real top-level F1 driver.

    1. Hmm, you put it better than I could have. Well anyway, he should stay at Merc, but maybe that’s not his choice. If he goes to Mclaren, Hamilton will show everyone why people should have forgotten about Button by now. Personally, I don’t think he’s gonna be in either of those teams. If Mclaren seriously think he’ll be a better investment than Kimi they’re out of their minds.

    2. Well whoever you think is the elite as there is room for debate, it will be tough for Jense to keep his crown

      1. or score another one

    3. with Lewis and Alonso I agree they are in the top tier of F1 drivers. why is Kimi considered elite and not Massa, what more Massa has to do to be considered as one?

      By what measure do you include Kubica in that list? He had average 2007 season, a good 2008 season and average 2009.

      About Vettel, we havent seen him win a race in which his car was miles faster than opposition.

      There are only two drivers that stand out form the crowd in F1, Lewis and Alonso.

  6. Should: Mercedes
    Will: McLaren

    I can hear the whiners already, but let’s face facts: Hamilton would never need to be favoured to beat Button over the course of a season in equal machinery.

    Yet Button is good enough to beat Hamilton’s rivals with him or without him. If Button goes to McLaren, I predict he won’t win the WDC, but Hamilton might have an easier time than if Raikkonen got the seat (because either Kimi would match him, or continue in Kovalainen’s mould and do Lewis few favours in taking points off of competitors), and McLaren will be very strong for the WCC.

  7. Now when i think on Button I remember Judas….
    And not less important, he’s digging his own grave….well with Nr 1 written on it ;-)

    1. Terry Fabulous
      17th November 2009, 21:46

      How is he Judas mate? He hasn’t exactly betrayed his saviour Ross Brawn?

      I would describe more as being mercenary but that is a title you could give most professional sportsmen these days.

  8. If Jenson wants to be the #1 driver, stay at Brawn/Mercedes. If he wants to be the #2 driver, go to Mclaren.

  9. hamilton will probably beat him every race.

    1. Not if Hamilton can’t stop wearing his tyres out every 10 laps. Jenson is possibly the most suited driver for slowing tyre wear down since he drives so smoothly.

      1. when did hamilton do that? hamilton is good with his tyres i.e. hungary.

        lets not forget buttons “oh my god, how did this car get so bad” for the majority of the mid season, because he couldnt heat his tyres while barrichello could.

        1. Hamilton is known for mashing up rear tyres – but something he has improved on this year.

          Don’t underestimate the fuel issue though in relation to tyre wear – it is a massive factor and will definitely be in Jenson’s mind when he joins McLaren… he might just have a slight chance against Hamilton.

          1. oh yer dont get me wrong he has improved doing so but this year will make it even harder to maintain tyres and hamilton isnt the best to maintain tyres and 1 race out of how many doesn’t proove he has improved tenfold on tyreware. The “every ten laps” was a slight mislead, he is probably off by 3-4 laps to other drivers who are really good with tyres depending how bad he treats the tyres. this year it wont matter how good the car is if the driver cant stop locking his brakes which im sure Hamilton does do abit because he is an aggrssive style driver. 2010 is looking to suit jenson alot more then 2009, since i reckon he could outlast everyone with tyres. Lewis i feel will just keep shooting himself in the foot next year, with having to go 80% of his actual driving skill because he doesnt have pitstop fueling to help him get out infont. Lewis IMO will get in the top 4 again only because the mclaren should be a decent car and helping lewis out mostly with points, but we will see.

            It’s just when tyreware comes involved Lewis isn’t my top pick thats all i just think, even vettel is better at tyre ware then he is IMO.

        2. Hamilton does have a reputation for being harder than average on his tyres, although he has improved that this year. For example I believe that one of the reasons he used a three stop strategy at Turkey 2008 was due to tyre wear.

          But in recent years McLaren have also been seen to be harder on their tyres than Ferrari, one of the side affects of being able to warm the tyres up quickly.

          While I think Hamilton will be able to beat Button if they are teammates, the issue of managing the tyres with heavy cars due to no refuelling next season should be an advantage for Button.

  10. HounslowBusGarage
    17th November 2009, 21:15

    I think it would be a fundamental marketing mistake to have two British drivers in a British team as it alienates non-British supporters and sponsors from MacLaren. The same would be true for two German drivers in a German team (Merc).
    It all becomes too nationalistic with USF1 and Force India on the grid as well.
    If this comes about, how will French, Irish, Portugese and myriad other nationalities relate to Formula 1? They won’t, and the sponsors will recognise this and withdraw.

  11. Mercedes or McLaren? Button’s decision

    I don’t really believe that he can now choose between Mercedes and McLaren, because McLaren’s aim is to get best drivers to their team and it’s very odd if Button is now in the top of their ‘most wanted drivers list’. We all know that Button won championship this year, but the fact is that he did it because BrawnGP had so perfect car. He is more mediocre than a driver who can really deliver from race to race.

    I believe that Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback to team McLaren will come true. And with a line-up Hamilton-Raikkonen, McLaren will be ultimately the best team next season.

  12. bobo_the_legend
    17th November 2009, 21:35

    i would like to see jenson at mclaren but as avery 1 nos its lewis’s team the car is built around him. if jenson does sign for mclaren i dont think he will fit in and wont have a chance of defending his world title which will go to lewis next year in my opinion if they have a good car and dont get the penaltes.

  13. holy ****, Kimi retires. His manager said to finnish news paper Turun Sanomat that Kimi will not drive next year in F1.. so sad. I can’t believe this..:(

  14. The Brawn double diffuser was the main reason for Jenson’s early points advantage. It is unlikely to happen again next season that one or two teams will build a world-beating car due to rule interpretation.
    The understeer/oversteer preferences of JB & LH may favour Button as front tyres will be narrower and high cornering speed will mean greater slip-angles, but I feel Lewis will have an advantage over Jenson if he joins Mclaren.
    Give Mercedes another season Jenson, you never know what their obsession to win will produce.

    1. the understeer oversteer isue is managed by how the team sets up the weight distribution, mclaren have alredy started building the mp4-25 wich is pretty much built around ham after this year

  15. This could all be a huge bluff on account of Jenson and Fry to get the Brawn team maximum publicity for the least amount of money.

    The starting stories don’t get them money but the amount of exposure they are currently getting is swamping F1 sites, and dominating the non F1 news.

  16. Bluff or not when a team like McLaren or Ferrari show an interest in a driver you’d be crazy not to grab the opportunity while it’s there. No matter what happens with Hamilton, Button is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. I’m sure he’d regret not taking the opportunity to drive for the house that Ron built.

    1. versus driving a machine thats built in Brawn garage?

      I’d take my chances with Ross.

      When Ross Brawn offers you to build a machine, you take it.

  17. Should stay with Brawn, will probably end up at McLaren.

    I don’t believe Lewis will wipe the floor with him, but that’s not to say he is faster than Lewis, just that Lewis will be kept honest.

    It’s like Senna(3xWDC) and Prost(4xWDC) in 1988/89… the driving styles are very similar, Ham/Sen & But/Pro, Prost won it in 1989 don’t forget… and the fuel loads should suit Button’s style more than Hamiltons…

    Will definitely be an interesting one to watch.

  18. I know I am an old romantic but his decision should be made based purely on sport and doing the right thing, not money.
    that means staying at Brawn. But I cant help but fear that his relationship with fry and Brawn will have been damaged now after these endless discussions and Button wanting more. Doesn’t he want to stay with a team that gave him the world title – his dream since he was a boy?

    I don’t think button is mediocre, as others have suggested, but Lewis is just unbelievably quick plus he has that team around him and has stability. its highly unlikely he can finish the season in front of Lewis. Button might not care about that, he might just want to go somewhere he is wanted now.

    (as an aside I dont think Kimi and Lewis get on, but please correct me if I am wrong – though it didn’t stop Prost and Senna).

    1. Button is owed more money. Yes, they are all very big sums, but it’s all relative.

      Fry’s comments on Jenson’s offer seem strange, seen as Rosberg earnt $8,5m last season compared to Button’s $5m.

      It can only be that Mercedes are hell bent on 2 German drivers, or one Button at no extra cost.

      It’s insulting for a World champion in my opinion, and I wouldn’t begrudge Jenson for going to McLaren at all.


    It says Kimi’s manager has confirmed the negotiations with Mclaren have ended with no result and that Kimi won’t be driving in F1 in 2010

    Cant confirm with translation, but they were giving to me by a finnish friend. So…..

    1. That is awful news

  20. Button’s smooth driving style and canny race skills,(he very rarely breaks cars or gets taken out in crashes) coupled with large fuel loads and longer tyre usage could add up to a second WDC at either Maclarren or Mercedes.

    1. hamilton had 2 retirements in his first two seasons, look past this year before you say things. i dont know buttons retirement score over 07 and 08 but i suspect they were heigher,

      Hamilton didnt break his car at abu dhabi it was a brake problem, its like saying massa broke his car at Hungary 08, he didnt! the car failed. same for hamilton

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