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.

McLaren

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. Rob Wilson said on 17th November 2009, 23:37

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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. sumedh said on 18th November 2009, 1:44

    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.

  5. wasiF1 said on 18th November 2009, 2:03

    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.

  6. Hakki said on 18th November 2009, 2:52

    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)

  7. flins said on 18th November 2009, 3:09

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

    • Hakki said on 18th November 2009, 3:53

      “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.

  8. 000o0 said on 18th November 2009, 6:27

    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.

    • 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.

  9. GeeMac said on 18th November 2009, 6:28

    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!

  10. trocadero said on 18th November 2009, 8:17

    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?

  11. trocadero said on 18th November 2009, 8:21

    Another thought.

    Pre the Mercedes buyout, did Brawn as was have the money to develop a 2010 car? Presumably Button also knows the answer to that.

  12. Bertie said on 18th November 2009, 8:49

    Who cares whether him staying at mercedes is the sensible option. Button at mclaren will definately be more entertaining and thats all that should matter.

  13. Prisoner Monkeys said on 18th November 2009, 9:03

    I think Button should stay. While I have no doubt he could hold his own at McHamilton, I don’t think they have a soul. They sold it when Mika Hakkinen left.

    I’m also questioning the supposed gap between Mercedes and McLaren. The Briitsh articles on the subject have discreetly painted Mercedes as being unsympathetic to JB, while at the same time McLaren are all sugar and spice and all things nice towards him. I just saw the ByronF1 Twitter feed that blatantly mis-quotes a quote from Ross Brawn. And if you look at the timing of it, the articles that claim Button is a certainty for McLaren only came when Mercedes bought out Brawn and left McLaren, amking McLaren a team wholly-owned by the British.

    The British press want Button to go to McLaren and seem to think that if they can convince everyone that the space separating McLaren from Mercedes is vast enough, they can make it happen.

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  15. I used to think Button going to McLaren didn’t make sense on his part unless it really was all down to money, but recently I have had a change of view.

    I think if the contracts on offer to Button from Mercedes and McLaren were both the same he would accept the Mercedes one as Brawn is his current home so he knows the team and how it works whereas McLaren is Hamilton’s home, and although both teams will say their drivers are treated equally I think it will always be easier for the established driver in a team rather than the newcomer.

    However some reports are saying that McLaren are offering a three year deal and Mercedes only a one year deal.

    Even though Button may have the confidence in himself that he can win back to back championships he must realise that the title fight will be closer next year, and as hard as it is to make a prediction in November for the next season, (just think which teams would have been the favourites for 2009 this time last year), there could easily be four teams fighting closely for the championship.

    So unless Button did win back to back titles, he is at his strongest position in negotiations right now, and if he signed with Mercedes for one year depending on what happens next season he may be unable to then get a seat at a top team for 2011. So even if you ignore the money on offer and the Hamilton factor at McLaren a three year deal with McLaren could be better in the long term than a one year Mercedes contract.

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