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. 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.

    1. Didn’t Brawn divert a lot of its cash to the 2010 car quite early too? I stand corrected on that one.

  2. 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.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys
    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.

  4. Button kudu bertahan di BrawnGP terus
    Tidak menolak kunjungan Anda ke blog saia yang lain di

  5. 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.

    1. I agree, and I am pretty sure this is a fair reflection of the actual true story… whatever that is.

  6. It is now official, as reported about 15 minutes ago on Autosport: According to Kimi’s manager, Steve Robertson, Kimi will take a sabbatical from F1 during 2010. He leaves the door open for a return in 2011.

    So, McLaren will most likely be HAM and BUT. Which for McLaren could be a very good thing, of which I am sure McLaren is aware. As several have pointed out here, and as I said in the Forum the other day, with no refueling next season the cars are going to be a handful for a good portion of the race. Button’s “kinder” driving style could well pick up some wins or at least valuable Constructor points when Hamilton’s raw speed won’t quite turn the trick.

    And I do think Button will go to McLaren. After the slap in the face Ross Brawn gave hime by saying in effect Button wasn’t worth a raise, if I were Button I’d have been packed a gone already. Ross Brawn just did make a lot of money from the goodwill of both Honda and Button, and Barrichello for that matter, and now seems to forget not only on which side his bread was buttered but also who did the buttering for him. I’d think it poetic justice if Ross lost at least one thing out of all this: the #1–it belongs to Button and he will take it with him to McLaren.

    Someone mentioned that two British drivers in a British team / two German drivers in a German team would make the sport seem “nationalistic”. Seems to work for football, why NOT for F1? Back in the day, through the 20s, 30s, 40s, Grand Prix racing was quite nationalistic, at least in terms of support, if not driver loyalty. And GP not only survived that, but grew quite healty–healthy enough that a whole new series was initiated to showcase it-Formula 1.

    I think it will be very good to watch HAM/BUT slug it out with MAS/ALO and WEB/VET over at RBRacing. Should make an interesting season.

  7. One thing is for sure, which ever team he chooses it will be the wrong one!
    Throughout his career when ever he has had to make a choice of teams it’s been the wrong one, he only stayed at Brawn this season because he had no choice…… so we will know which will be the better team Brawn or McLaren after Jenson has signed… and it will be the other one.

  8. The BBC are claiming Button to McLaren is a done deal and will be announced later on Wednesday

  9. I think it will be awesome. Ok, Hamilton is quicker on a single lap. But trye management is going to massively more important next year, due to fueling ban. Jenson is a master of low tyre wear. So I reckon in a race there will be little to choose between them.

  10. For me it’s a pity that Kimi is taking a sabbatical and that Button is joining McLaren.
    I would have thought Button/Rosberg @ Brawn/Mercedes, Hamilton/Raikkonen @ McLaren, and Alonso/Massa @ Ferrari would have been an awesome prospect for the fans of F1 next year.
    I don’t see a Rosberg/Heidfeld pairing nearly as exciting.
    Oh well – let’s wait and see.

  11. agreed with Gaza to some extent.

    We dont know how well the drivers are going to do next year. we can keep saying ” oh hams gonna do better than button” and then suddenly 11 months later you see them both neck in neck.

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