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. Re: Spud: I thought Jenson was on £4M this past year and wanted to go back to £8M?

    What I don’t understand either, is that apparently Brawn have offered him the £8M he asked for, but then the Guardian reported he is going to McLaren for £6M. So you can’t really say he’s chasing the money if that were the case.

    As a Kimi fan, all I can say is I hope he stays at Brawn (which would be the best option for him anyway imo) and McLaren sort things out with Kimi.

  2. I think that Button should stay at Brawn/Mercedes. He already knows and is familiar with Brawn and there are going to be unexpected changes, both with the car and management, that are going to take some time to get used to. Even with a fair amount of testing, it could take several races to get comfortable with the car and the team. In a worst case scenario, Hamilton could already be more than 20 points ahead by then.

    Whether official or not, he is going to be the number two driver at McLaren. Let’s face it, if you only have one new front wing on race day, are you going to give it to Hamilton or Button? At Mercedes, he isn’t going to be partnered with anyone he can’t beat.

    Also, the car is likely to be built around Hamilton’s driving style, which, as has already pointed out, is the complete opposite of Button’s. Hopefully it can be made to work, otherwise I fear a year of Button driving around in 6th screaming ‘no grip!’ over the radio while the boy from Stevenage vanishes into the distance.

  3. Now that the team has become Mercedes, I have no doubt that the team will continue being a top team in the future. I think Button should stay at Mercedes, despite the lower salary. He is going to be beaten by Hamilton, however good on him if he’s teaming up with him to see whether he actually is one of the top drivers in F1.
    If he is just going because of the money, well hmm.. This is the guy who said many times before that he’d trade all his money for a competitive car. Yes I know that McLaren produces some of the best cars, but if he really wants to win the title and not have his confidence shattered then he should stay at Mercedes. If he does well again Alonso, Massa, Vettel and Hamilton, then I have no doubt that Merc will increase his salary.

    I stil can’t believe that McLaren would choose Button over Raikkonen though.. I seriously doubt McLaren really believe that Button is better than Kimi, otherwise they’d have hired Button alongside Kimi or even replaced Kimi whenever they had the chance to, (2005 when Montoya joined.. that could have been Button instead or end of 2006 when there was a free seat available..)

  4. I am feeling disappointed with how things have turned out. I knew Merc were planning to invest heavily in Brawn, but I didn’t foresee that they would take over and rebrand in their name and that has been a bit of a shock.

    I have enjoyed the 2009 season so much; seeing my favourite driver finally get a race winning car, and seeing a British independent team winning both titles. I’ve followed F1 for a long time and have always been someone who supports drivers rather than teams but this year with Brawn I really felt there was a team I could get behind too – something about their spirit really captured my heart. Now the new Mercedes will just be another manufacturer team to me and I don’t see myself supporting them. I was looking forward to 2010 as another year of seeing ‘my driver’ with ‘my team’, regardless of whether or not they managed to repeat any of their 09 success.

    Two days ago I would have said without doubt that Button should stay at Brawn. Aside from wanting to see my favourite driver stay with my favourite team (and preferring not to see him in a McLaren, who I have an irrational dislike of), I am capable of being objective about the situation and I thought that Brawn would offer JB the environment that would allow him to perform at his best. I also thought that Button staying with a team he has a long history with would be better for him than trying to take on Hamilton who is so well established with McLaren. On the other side of things, before the Mercedes announcement I thought that McLaren were perhaps in the better position to produce a race winning car for 2010. But, with the relative pace of the cars being an unknown until they turn up in Bahrain in March (yes we get some idea from pre-season testing but never the full picture) and all other things being equal, I felt that JB staying with Brawn was most definitely the sensible option.

    The new situation, post Merc takeover, I am less sure about. With the limited official information there is (although large amount of rumour and speculation abound to confuse things) I don’t see one of Button’s options as having a clear cut advantage over the other. There are lots of what ifs (to quote Murray, if is F1 spelled backwards) which if they prove to be true will make a difference. If Merc are going to push for a German driver to be their number 1, Button is better off out, but if they aren’t then he might be better staying put – and that’s just one example. Trying to ignore all the rumours, which is difficult, I am still seeing JB staying with Brawn/Mercedes as being the slightly better option.

    I honestly don’t think this is about the money. I think that is just one part of the negotiations that has been blown out of all proportion by the British press. There are a lot of other subtle contract nuances that most of us have no idea about and I am sure Button is more concerned with trying to work out which team will give him the most chance of success.

    To those people who believe that if Button does go to McLaren he will be annihilated by Hamilton, I am not so sure. I do think that the team already being set up around Hamilton might be an issue, but that overall they will be surprisingly (for some) evenly matched. If it does happen, I see Hamilton qualifying better, them being fairly equal on race performance, and Button making less mistakes.

    Really I just wish there would just be an announcement to put me out of my misery, I am constantly refreshing pages on all my favourite F1 sites just to see if there is any news! I am sure I am not the only one.

  5. There are only words which need to be said to explain why Jenson Button would be mad to go to McLaren:

    Lewis Hamilton

    1. Maybe he likes a challenge? I like it – it would prove he had balls, even if they do take a pounding.

      1. elequent and astute

    2. Well, Button is the current world champion. And that title suggests that you are the best. And to be the best you have to beat the best. He’s risking his reputation going up against Lewis, but what’s life without risks?

  6. I don’t care where Button goes as long as it’s not at McLaren.

    1. Thank You for saying that

  7. Who is being greed here?

    Why are people criticising Jenson Button for wanting more money?

    Has Ross Brawn not just banked tens of millions of pounds in return fr his ONE EURO/POUND investment to buy the old Honda/BAR/Tyrell team?

    Nice profit for Ross, if he really want to keep Jenson he could put hi hand in his pocket. Jenson effectively did that for you and, without him and Honda funding, you would not have sold the team to Mercedes.

  8. I think he should stay with Mercedes but it’s looking inevitable he’ll go to McLaren. I think going to McLaren would be a mistake for Button as it’s very much Hamilton’s team and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Alonso and Kovalainen have both come out and talked about Hamilton getting preferential treatment over strategy and new parts. I agree with others that it would be nice to see Button take on Hamilton in equal machinery and it would be closer than a lot of people think but the contrast in driving styles will make setting up the car and as we saw this year car set-up isn’t Button’s strong point.

  9. I think he should stay with Mercedes but it’s looking inevitable he’ll go to McLaren. I think going to McLaren would be a mistake for Button as it’s very much Hamilton’s team and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Alonso and Kovalainen have both come out and talked about Hamilton getting preferential treatment over strategy and new parts. I agree with others that it would be nice to see Button take on Hamilton in equal machinery and it would be closer than a lot of people think but the contrast in driving styles will make it difficult for the team in terms of setting up the car and as we saw this year car set-up isn’t Button’s strong point.

  10. Jenson should drive for MERCEDES even if he makes less money.
    Its still a good day at the office, and a chance at winning the WDC.

  11. Lewis belongs at McLaren. Jenson does not. Go away Jenson.

    1. ha ha, go away ha!

  12. Isn’t it funny how we will have 2 british world champions in a british world-championship winning team, but we might not have a British GP?

    I’m not a brit but I thought I should just point that out.

  13. I love Button, probably because he was always the underdog, but I’m worried that Hamilton is the better driver and partnering him could ruin Button’s reputation.

  14. Going to Mclaren will signal the end of Jenson Button’s career. In less than half a season, everyone will find out that he is a mediocre driver who lucked into the 2009 championship thanks to a superior car and an inferior team-mate.

    Ross Brawn has got rid of both his mediocre drivers, smart ploy.

    First Kimi dug up his own grave. Now Button is doing the same.

  15. My choice is
    Mclaren-Hamilton & Raikkonen.
    Mercedes-Button & Roseberg.

    It will be hard for Button on what he choose because he would like to have more money on the other hand it won’t be a good idea to pair him up with Hamilton.

  16. Button got 2009 title, but he couln’t convince some F1 fan that he is as fast as other champions such as Raikonen, Hamilton,Alonso.
    Moving to Maclaren is a big chance that he can prove that he is as competitive as Hamilton.
    The only thing Button need at the moment is not money, not next title, but the fact that he can defeat competitive dreiver like Hamilton with same car as a teammate.
    So I think Maclaren choice will be good one(I doubt that he can beat Hamilton though)

  17. Do you think Button will be #1 in Mercedes? I thought Mercedes prefer Rosberg as #1

    1. “Defeated by Hamilton is better than defeated by Rosberg”
      That would be a reason why Button choose Macrlaren.
      It will never become apparent that world champion Button is actually slower than Rosbrg who have never won race before.

      At any rate, time will tell who’s the best.

  18. i think the most interesting angle is not who Button should choose – but why McLaren are so keen on getting Button?

    I always thought that McLaren wanted/needed to have the best available drivers. Now understanding that best is subjective – i will assume that for f1, best = fastest. Given this, surely it is a no brainer for McLaren to want to pair Hammy with Kimi.

    I dont getwhat McLaren stand to gain from hiring Button.

    1. I write this reply after it seems certain Raikkonen won’t be in F1 next year, but even while Raikkonen was still an option I don’t think McLaren choosing Button over Raikkonen contradicts their driver policy of always trying to sign the best drivers available.

      Raikkonen was probably McLaren’s first choice but as they couldn’t agree a deal they had to start looking at other drivers. While I think that a case could be made that other drivers on the market would be better for McLaren than Button, apart from Raikkonen I don’t think any of the other options are significantly better.

      Also I think I remember Whitmarsh saying recently that McLaren wanted to have their 2010 driver line-up confirmed sooner rather than later as if they waited they ran the risk that the better drivers would already be signed by other teams.

  19. Jenson should probably stay at Brawn/Mercedes, but will end up at McLaren probably. Everything seems to be falling into place for a move to McLaren.

    Gutted Kimi won’t be at McLaren next year, but looking forward to Jenson v Lewis!

  20. My opinion is that, as the smoother driver, Button will be more successful than Hamilton next year if they both drive McLaren.

    Why? He has already beaten so against so called Number One drivers at BAR – Villeneuve and Trulli at Renault. Barichello was the more successful driver pre this season. In his first test of an F1 car, a Prost, button was 1/2 second a lap faster than Jean Alesi in the same car minutes later.

    On full tanks, Button’s style will ensure the tyres last better than Hamilton’s tail sliding technique. Hamilton may well be quicker in qualifying if the run low fuel in Q3. Both Sir Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost won their World Championships driving smoothly and balancing their cars on full tanks.

    Also, it is quite possible that Martin Whitmarsh does not favour Lewis over other drivers as much as Ron Dennis and I don’t think John Button micro manages the relationship between team and son.

    Anyway, having got 200- 1 on £20 for Button in this years championship, thank you William Hill! I have been down the same bookies and invested £100 at 6 to 1 on Button to win the championship next year.

    Time will tell?

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