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 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ but what about Jenson Button?

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