Brawn and Button – who needs who the most?
McLaren
Brawn and Button – who needs who the most?
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Oct 2009   |  6:11 pm GMT  |  91 comments

There has been a lot of talk this week about Jenson Button’s contract talks with the Brawn team. Proving what an unsentimental business this is, the champagne soaked clothes are barely back from the dry cleaners and both sides are publicly playing hardball. It’s a question of who needs who the most.

Brawn&Button
The team have come through a lot together. It was really noticeable on the day the titles were clinched in Brazil that Ross Brawn’s first thoughts were for the employees he had been forced to let go when the team downsized from 700 to 450 in April.

Equally, Button was singing “We are the champions” over the radio on the slow down lap. Both are indications of the strength of team feeling, something Brawn has always known how to create from his days at Ferrari.

But in those days no-one, especially the media, could ever drive a wedge between star driver Michael Schumacher and the team. Here there is an obvious problem and Button’s side have used the press to leverage their position, with stories this week about Button having to pay for his own laundry and of course the infamous rumours about a McLaren dream team with Lewis Hamilton.

Schumacher would never have played that game, but then the Ferrari team would never have contemplated life without him. The same is clearly not true of Brawn and Button. He did a great job for them in the first half of the season, but made heavy weather of it second half and that isn’t the ideal platform from which to drive a hard bargain.

Ross Brawn said on Sunday that he was very confident a deal would be done with the new world champion, “We want Jenson to stay in the team and I think we will find a solution.

“Jenson has a contract with us, but of course that contract is not the salary of a world champion and not the salary of a team that is now in a much stronger position than it was ten months ago.

“We are working with Jenson to find a balance between what we can afford and what he feels is fair for his status and what he can contribute in the future.

“You are never 100% but I would say 99% [certain it will happen].”

Brawn makes the point that the difference between what Button’s contract says and what he is looking for is enough to make a significant difference to the performance of the car. It’s something of the order of £5 million.

This is all taking place against the backdrop of the Resource Restriction agreement kicking in, which is a mutual agreement between teams to keep costs under control. This was what the teams came up with instead of the budget cap.

It also comes at a time when Brawn has landed sponsors and is selling a 75% stake in the business to Mercedes. In two years time, if the deal goes through, it will become the official Mercedes works team and I would put serious money on them wanting Sebastian Vettel in the car in 2012.

Things are changing an there is even talk that the Mercedes management might base themselves at Brawn’s motorhome next season, rather than McLaren. Either way the team looks really well set for the future.

For that reason, Button really needs to stay with Brawn for the next two years, but you can’t blame him for trying to squeeze a better deal.

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1

Time for Ross Brawn to get the cheque book out and give Jenson the contract he deserves. £8-£10 million a year should do it, plus a Braun Shaver.

2

As a Button fan since his BAR days, I know who need whom more–Button needs Brawn.

Button must have a decent car that works for his silky smooth driving style. Save for 2004, BAR and Honda couldn’t provide him such a car. With 2009 though, Button was paid in spades with the perfect car to suit him. Button needs to stay in a car of the same caliber, or he will stumble down the grid back into obscurity.

3

James, Is Jenson being badly advised again? I have to say that I don’t buy daily papers, so I have not read any of the comments that you have written in this blog, probably because of my distrust of the national press. We know that he took a large pay cut, but surely a bit of common sense is now required on both sides. This argument appears to be more about the status (WDC) Jenson now has and the ‘Market Value’ of a WDC rather than a drivers need to earn a living. Looking down the pit lane Jenson’s options appear limited, if he wants a good car next year, he will need Brawn or McLaren and possibly one other team, and if he chooses to follow the money he will have a few more options. I hope he (JB) does not fall into the trap of 2004 and overules his advisors. Sometimes these guys can’t see a good thing!

4

It’s simple, Jenson needs Brawn more.

The drivers want the best car\team that they can get into. Ross’s history proves he’s a winner and whatever he touches turns gold, thus drivers are lining up to drive for Brawn.

Stay where you are Jenson… and don’t haggle too much, you already earn a huge, huge salary compared to the rest of us (and oh dear, he’s had to pay for his own flights – pass me a hankie to wipe my tears away!); what would make you more happy, earning mega-bucks (when you already have big-bucks) or being in contention for another drivers title?

The F1 history books don’t look at salaries, they look at who won what.

Moving to Macca would be a huge mistake. Lewis is bedded in there, he has strong relations with his crew and management; whoever drives at Macca will struggle. I’m not saying Macca favour Lewis, more that Lewis has learned from Schumi how to get people on his side.

Similarly Jenson currently has people on his side at Brawn. Haggling for a bigger salary, will only antagonise people… keep your cool, enjoy the No1 status – you’ve worked hard to get there. Don’t spoil it by being petulant!

5
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

A separate question for you James. Currently, in all truth, how involved is Ron with McLaren’s F1 effort?

Ron does not seem like a hands-off type of character that is happy to just concentrate on putting together anonymous looking road cars.

Now that Mosley has gone could we expect to see the shadow of the Ronster return?

6

Well now you mention it, I suspect that we might see Ron back in an F1 paddock this weekend. Now that Mosley has gone and with some big negotiations going on with Mercedes, I’ve heard a whisper that he might be there. After all he was not given any kind of FIA ban, of the kind which keeps Briatore at bay.

7
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James – thanks for this very honest assessment. The general British media are making out Brawn to be the heartless villains in this story. Whatever they end up paying JB over their initial offer will be to avoid negative PR.

What are Brawn’s objectives at the end of the day? To be at the front and to sell space on their cars at the highest price. Let’s face it…after many years of average performance Button is not hugely marketable…or certainly not as marketable as a fresh faced Vettel.

Brawn’s biggest backers is Mercedes Benz – it is logical that they would prefer to spend the salary budget on a German driver.

The technical rules are clearer next year and we should see a more even playing field and it is unclear as to how competitive Brawn will be. With the engine freeze Mercedes have in a way hedge their bets by backing McLaren and Brawn until 2011. Regardless of Brawn’s performance McLaren should come back strongly after pouring resources into their 2010 car. Brawn will want to pump in more money into R&D and personnel to ensure their competitiveness at the front. They must surely feel that money is better spent in these areas as opposed to Button’s salary. They can then go on a spending spree for the driver that they really want in 2011 – Vettel.

Have Brawn signed another driver to replace Rubens yet? How will Button’s salary affect this decision?

8

I believe the salaries of drivers are out of control, at the end of the day no one remembers how much money drivers made from f1 but what they contributed to f1.

Button should except the drive with Brawn as it’s his best chance to defending his title. It’s also his best chance of staying on top of his team mate, as it will probably take Rosberg half the season to get on top of the car and team next season. Lewis has the power and the speed within Mclaren.

9

all my comments are awaiting moderation!!

I think there could be an issue with your website.

I am only able to view the latest post if I use the address

http://www.jamesallenonf1/+

without the + your article on Brawn and Button is not published.

Could just be me.

Thanks

10

remember Damon Hill anyone? dont try and push around F. Williams or R. Brawn. At the end of the day it’s the car. Rubens almost upset the apple cart and I am sure Brawn feels that Rosberg could have and will do the same job on a cheaper retainer. Jenson is world champion but he’s kidding himself if he thinks he will win this war.

11

Cheaper retainer ? Williams were paying Rosberg 8.5m last year – don’t suppose he’s moved for less 😉

12

So if Button as WDC agrees to sign for £8m he’ll be paid less than Rosberg? maybe that’s the real reason for the contract talks stalling. Or could it be that Rosberg will take a reduction in order to get his hands on the ‘winning’ car he keeps referring to?

13

I wouldn’t call it war, it’s just mind games and banter…it’s just Formula 1 🙂

14

doesn’t the restriction on spending ignore salaries of drivers>?

15

James,

I’m interested in Norbert Haug’s position/influence on the possible Brawn switch… as Head of Mercedes Benz Motorsport surely he has quite a large say in the direction of the companies motorsport activities. Do you think he’s leaning more towards staying with McLaren or starting a new relationship with Ross Brawn?

He’s always seemed like a good fit with McLaren… part of the team. If he is getting messages from the board advising to jump to Brawn do you think he would protest this or see the same opportunities they seem to be seeing?

And is the wait on Jenson’s contract part of this too? Are Mercedes as keen on JB as Ross Brawn is? I understand their want for a German driver in one of ‘their’ cars, but do they see more potential WDC’s from JB or do they think he’s a one-off? If they are to make a Mercedes works team out of Brawn then I see a Rosberg – Vettel line-up being a very good combination… Of course I’d want the best for JB though… So a Button Rosberg line-up is in my eyes just as good..

16

Haug is a very important figure in the Mercedes set up and he has a view of the bigger picture of where F1 is heading. He’s excited by the prospect of teams being able to compete in F1 for a third of what it used to cost, or even less. He and his board see this as the right moment and the right opportunity to control their own team.

17

Sorry James I must have misunderstood what you wrote. I suppose my question should have been “do JB and BrawnGP feel that he will bring £5million worth of performance over a season.

With resource restriction that is a tough call. I still think he is worth it though.

18

i believe that Jenson will stay put, however i am interested in the new teams. Would love to see the ginger Ant driving for lotus, any news or gossip on the new team James.

19

If Brawn’s 2009 had been a “normal” year, then I think a good case could be made that Button’s request for more money would be ill advised. But Brawn’s 2009 is coloured to a huge degree by their parlous financial state. Button’s reduced 2009 salary was needed and he accepted it, but it does seem right to me, now that funds are dropping into Brawn’s coffers, that an increase for 2010 would be fair.

Ross Brawn has said as much and there has to be an amount that reflects Buttons position as WDC without drawing funds away from car development. It seems highly likely to me that both Brawn and Button will benefit greatly from renewing contracts and that is what I trust we will all see soon.

20

I think Brawn will need Button as Much as Button will need Brawn next year.

Ross Brawn will be only too aware that there is no better driver in Formula One that can look after tyres better than our Jenson – probably to the level of Prost – and that alone will give the Strategists at Brawn a whole lot more options on race days next year than with a driver who HAS to stop because he`s chewed his rears to pieces – next year it`ll be a balance of time in the pits versus time that can be made up on new rubber – the permatations for a SMOOTH driver will be huge and Ross Brawn – with all his experience of no-re-fueling knows that only too well !

With teams spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to find a tenth, 10 seconds in the bag `cos you ain`t gonna stop for fresh rubber has got to be worth a mint ! 😉 or maybe £5 million a year 🙂

21

give me a break. anymore attitude out of jenson and he will be shown the door just like Damon Hill, who also looked after tyres and qualified well! Ask him how it felt driving for arrows while Villeneuve was winning the championship.

22

Good point, that factor could really play into Jenson’s hands next year.

23

Interesting point, James

I think that Jenson needs much more the Brawn team than the other way around. Jenson is a capable midfield driver who was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. But who can forget all the previous years and his contribution to the sport? Who can forget his track record during the second half of the year where he did not have the car advantage. If I read between the lines he is getting a raise, so he is being thanked for his contribution this year. His “sacrifice” to have a lower wage this year got him the drive, without it he would probably be in Nascar or some other lesser category. Being a champion should be compensation enough. Asking the price that he could get 2 years ago when each team was spending like hell, strikes me as not seeing the reality. This is not the time to play hard ball or play tricks by naming other teams so that he can get a higher price. He should see sense soon, before he finds himself in Toyota and motorsport oblivion.

Brawn on the other hand is strong in organisation, vision and team building. For him the drivers are probably one piece of the winning puzzle and not the key one. So if he can get Nico (who is a rising star) and a consistent second driver (such as Heidfield) he could really make a Mercedes team and use the resources saved plus the ones gained by Mercedes to continue building on his team, which right now can not sustain its champion position.

24

How many years when Button was with Honda, did he complain about not having a championship winning car, but he had lots of $$.

Now that he has another chance in a championship car, he complains about money!

I think Ross and the team realize that the car won the title, not Button, as Jenson and Rubens were both in contention. Its not like he won the title in a terrible under-performing car.

I think Button (and his manager) should understand that a chance at another title, and the opportunity to work with RB, is worth more than pure money!

Maybe have a few words with Alonso & Hamilton for advice, as im sure they would trade money for the glory of winning another championship!

If he goes to another team, his title days are over!

25

I am a big JB fan, but he isn’t bigger than the team.

It seems likely that Rsoberg will be at Brawn and he will have no problem in getting the best from the car. Who else could Brawn pick up to replace JB, I’d personally tip Anthony Davidson to be a rejuvinated choice.

Button would do well if he could do an MS to the Toyota Team.

It’s a bit of a gamble – especially with Toyota debating whether or not to pull out of F1, but if he could focus the team, he’d have a real powerhouse of engineering behind him and it could very well be mutually beneficial.

26

James.

This “resource restriction” is coming accross as a bit of a myth. Have you any details on it at all?

27

It’s no myth, it’s in place and legally binding. I’ll be doing some writing on this after the season finishes

28

GBP5m would certainly make Jenson Button the cheapest world champion of recent years.

James, where would that rank him in the drivers salries standings?

29

Raikkonen is top paid, then Alonso, then Hamilton. Button would be alongside Massa and Kubica, is my guess.

30

I wonder if there has ever been a comparison of driver’s pay per championship point per season?

I’m a Kimi supporter, but even I think he isn’t worth $25 million based on last year and this year’s form.

I remember an anecdote about Ayrton Senna asking Ron Dennis for 1 million USD per race (in 1993?), but has there ever been a driver on a fixed salary with a variable portion depending on the number of points scored, and a hefty bonus if he won a title?

31

You are right about Piquet Snr and in signing for Arrows, Damon Hill turned down a similar deal from Mclaren because it wasn’t fitting his status as new world champion. We all know what happened ay Mclaren for 98/99 while Hill went to Jordan, who admittedly were on the upswing, but a very good middle-order team. His one win at Spa in ’98 could have been many, many more.

32
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I believe that Nelson Piquet Sr was on this type of deal in his final years at Benneton

33

Yes. Lewis Hamilton in his first season.

I can’t remember the details but every point he scored was worth an additional £X,000. I think X was 7, but not sure. Read it on ITV-F1 I think.

I wouldn’t be surprised if most drivers are not on performance related bonuses. Its an obvious motivator alongside the championship standings.

34

Not sure if points per pound would be a particularly telling statistic – if your driver wins the championship by 1 point then that 1 point might be worth the extra millions he was paid compared to the guy who came second.

35

Play hardball Jense but don’t go overboard. Stay with Brawn and maybe ina couple of years it will be the top team.

36

I don’t think the McLaren deal is realistic, how would the PR department explain away Lewis Hamilton being effectively a #2 in what is widely regarded as his team? Clearly Jenson would bring in the #1 onto the silver car for another season but surely in the global sense Hamilton is much more well known and marketable then Jenson? I know drivers relish a challenge but I have a niggling feeling Jenson wouldn’t want to go up against Lewis in equal machinery. If Lewis was to dominate him Jenson’s confidence would take a hammering.

If Jenson stays at Brawn next year how do you feel he would fare without the car development input from Rubens? Jenson has made no secret Rubens really helped push the car forwards..

Finally isn’t McLaren’s car design ethos all about having a sharp strong corner entry turn in? (ie very heavily focused on front end grip?). This would possibly be a nightmare for Jenson given his preference for cars to run almost on rails. Lewis we know is an oversteer monster and I think McLaren would struggle to develop the car to suit both drivers. Any ideas on the difference and preferences between both drivers?

I think realistically we’ll see Brawn retain Jenson and sign Rosberg. At McLaren I see Heidfeld or Glock, I think Kimi’s missed the boat.

37

Definately Button needs Brawn more than viceversa.

Brawns this year would have won the Constructor and Drivers Championship without Jenson, no doubt about that.

Jenson was in the right car at the right time.

Now, Brawn should have a very good car for next year but, if rumours are right, McLarten should have a very good car too.

Will McLaren have the ability to keep up with Brawns now that Mercedes is backing Ross team?

I think in the next 2 years Jenson will have more joy on the Brawns for a number of reasons

Mercedes backing, probably the best engine on the grid right now

Ross Brawn is a winner and capable to win for years on end, did it at Ferrari.

Easy partnership with the team and the other side of the garage for this season.

On another note I can see Lewis joining Brawn and having 2 Brits on the Brawn in 2012, Mercedes will love him as a marketing tool.

What do you think James about this idea?

38

If Brawn want value for money, they should sign Kobayashi. It would only cost the price of raw meat…..(because he’s wild okay, nothing derogatory).

Seriously though, no one’s been writing about Kamui since his fast and furious debut.

Quick from the get go, impressively competitive and incredibly dangerous…just ask Nakajima…have heard nothing about that incident….penalties/fines etc.

If you were allowed to drive like that,Webber would be the champ.

..sorry if I was off topic but it seems like the F1 media have been too busy with JB and Abu Dhabi.

39

The media were so busy with Button they barely mentioned Webber winning the race so I’m not surprised Kobayashi didn’t get much of a look-in either 🙂 Actually, if anything he got more attention than Webber because of his battle with Button.

40

Well Webber won but not in any memorable way. Kobayashi is what I remember from Brasil, really. A rookie that actually impressed me this year, as opposed to quite a few others.

41

You write as if the sale to Mercedes is a done deal James – is that the case?

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