Mercedes or McLaren? Button’s decision

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?

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84 comments on Mercedes or McLaren? Button’s decision

  1. Steve Clark said on 17th November 2009, 22:00

    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.

    • Sush Meerkat said on 17th November 2009, 22:28

      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.

  2. Dougie said on 17th November 2009, 22:01

    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.

  3. gazzap said on 17th November 2009, 22:12

    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).

    • John H said on 17th November 2009, 23:06

      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.

  4. Alex White said on 17th November 2009, 22:17

    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…..

  5. 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.

    • 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

  6. 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.

  7. James G said on 17th November 2009, 22:21

    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.

  8. 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..)

  9. Sharon said on 17th November 2009, 22:36

    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.

  10. Ned Flanders said on 17th November 2009, 22:37

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

    Lewis Hamilton

    • John H said on 17th November 2009, 23:08

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

    • 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?

  11. S Hughes said on 17th November 2009, 22:51

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

  12. trocadero said on 17th November 2009, 23:22

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Bartholomew said on 17th November 2009, 23:30

    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.

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