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Button and McLaren opt for a piece of theatre
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Button and McLaren opt for a piece of theatre
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Nov 2009   |  9:56 am GMT  |  244 comments

The latest turn of the wheel in the saga over where Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen will race next year is that Button and his manager, Richard Goddard visited McLaren’s Woking HQ yesterday.

In itself that is no great surprise, it sends out a message to Brawn that Button has options and McLaren are known to be good payers. For McLaren it sends out a signal to Raikkonen, whose manager also toured McLaren this week, to act now if he wants to stay in F1 in a competitive car and to be more realistic about his salary demands.

But what makes this far more interesting is that both McLaren and Button have decided to go the extra mile and make a media event out of it. Indeed one could almost say that they are rubbing Brawn’s and Raikkonen’s respective noses in it.

"What's that, Ross? I can't hear you." (Darren Heath)
The Guardian’s Alan Henry, who is very close to McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, has written a piece where McLaren are happily admitting that Button made the visit, “To say hello”, according to a team spokesman. The flippancy of this comment says it all about what is going on here.

Meanwhile Goddard has a much more focussed message to send to Brawn; that all this stonewalling over salary rises means Jenson does not feel “valued”. You can feel his pain, but this is an unsentimental business. Ross Brawn went on the radio this week to say that he couldn’t pay Button any more money, but that he was free to sign up some personal sponsors to make up the shortfall.

But Goddard seemed to be offering Brawn a last chance to change his mind, as his driver toured McLaren and tried to imagine himself wearing silver,
“I think it’s important that Jenson wants to feel valued in whatever situation he finds himself next season,” Goddard said. “He needs to explore all the feasible options. We’ve been talking about possible terms for 2010 with Brawn for months and we’re not being difficult or unreasonably expensive in our demands for Jenson. In fact we’ve given up quite a lot of negotiating ground in our discussions with them.”

According to the Guardian, Button is looking for a rise on the £4m deal he has on the table, which was based on the cut-price deal he accepted from Brawn this year. Brawn clearly doesn’t feel he’s worth it and that makes Button not feel “valued”

So how will Brawn react to this? He already has Nico Rosberg signed up for next year, with the full blessing of Mercedes. It would be interesting to know what Rosberg’s retainer is, particularly if it is higher than the sum on offer to Button.

Raikkonen is available, but if Brawn is counting the pennies then Raikkonen is another pay grade altogether. Rubens Barrichello has already moved on to Williams. There are other solid reliable drivers around, like Nick Heidfeld or Timo Glock, but is there another on Button’s level?

A move to McLaren would surely be a mistake for Button, as he would be up against Lewis Hamilton in a team which is not only built around him, but which is in awe of what he achieved this season with a poor car. Hamilton has undoubtedly grown substantially as a driver in 2009 and we will probably see the results of that next year.

Button won the world title this year, but by his own admission he lost it a bit in the second half of the season. Brawn are now making him pay for that fallibility.

So is this just showboating or are Button’s people serious? According to Alan Henry, McLaren has now made Button its prime target and demoted Raikkonen to number two with Heidfeld number three.

This situation is reaching its endgame. Button is threatening to take that cherished number one away from Brawn. There is also a Mercedes dynamic here as they are moving away from McLaren and towards Brawn. They have no say in the driver decisions, even if they have some influence. A little of this could be McLaren looking to give Brawn some pain for the way the Mercedes talks have gone.

Also having two world champions in your team underlines your status. McLaren are very keen at the moment to underline that they and Ferrari are the really big names in F1, they carry the weight. As McLaren steers towards a new future without Mercedes from 2012 onwards, keeping self esteem high and the sponsors happy right now is an important strategy. Button would do a far better job than Heikki Kovalainen, but would following Hamilton home everywhere do much for his career?

It’s up to Ross Brawn to make a revised offer or call Button’s bluff. He will have a pretty good idea from the data of how Button would match up to Hamilton. He is a real pragmatist and will not take any of this personally, even if he might be mildly annoyed by this latest move. He will do whatever suits his long-term objectives for the path down which he is taking his team with Mercedes for the future.

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1

James,

As part of this contract, do you know if Jenson is requiring #1 driver status over Rosberg at Brawn, and if so, is this adding to the drama?

Thanks

O

2

Not aware of that. Think he feels the fixed amount in the contract relative to the performance related amount is too low

3

James,

Perhaps Mercedes isn’t keen to start its life as a constructor with a number 1 on the car ‘inherited’ from Brawn?

Rob

4

Every cent Button “leaves on the table” goes right in to car development. If Brawn offer him $8M but Jensen wants $11M that is $3M that has to come from somewhere. It won’t come from logistical expenses like flying the cars and team to the races, it won’t come from other salaries and fixed general overhead… those are non-elastic expenses with very limited “compressibility”. The only area that is elastic or compressible is car development. $3M buts a lot of wind tunnel scale models, pays wages for at least 20 engineers @$150K/yr that could dedicate their entire time towards making a better car. Jensen should think on that.

Either Mac or Brawn should hire Nick or Timo and Kimi should be left out in the cold where his unmotivated lazy ass can ponder what once was.

5

For all the gloom and doom predictions of his future performance, especially those holding that Rosberg will beat him, (I just can’t see that happening), JB no more “lucked into” his title than Mansell did (dominant car at the right time – sound familiar?), Mike Hawthorn (scoring system plus team orders thwarting Moss) or Graham Hill (Clark’s Lotus wasn’t reliable enough). Even Fangio won a title because Peter Collins famously stepped out of his car and handed it to Fangio.

Jenson deserves his title, and hats off to him for getting it. He did the best he could, with what he had, where he was, and came through. He maximized his opportunity where others couldn’t or didn’t, and there’s no shame in doing so. Whether he ever wins another race or not, you can’t take that away from him.

6

Agree 100% Rudy, he deserves his title – it’s unbelievably hard to win the world championship, whatever car you have. There is so much pressure. I reckon if he had that situation again now with the experience he’s gained from 2009, he would have a much smoother second half of the season. But that’s top level sport – you have to take your chances when they come. And they come to very few. You must make it happen for yourself.

7

I would love to see kimi work with Ross Brawn. If Mercedes choose to dump Mclaren and make brawn their works team then hopefully Kimi’s management would prefer Brawn over Mclaren. With mercedes buy out of brawn plenty of money should be able to afford Kimi. As far as button is concerned, he was never ultra-quick. We are yet to see him win a race in unfavorable conditions and with a car disadvantage i.e. Schumacher at China 2007.

8

It seems like everyone is visiting Woking these days word around is that Kubica have also paid a visit to the Mclaren headquarters, so where does he fit in? Lol

9

Hi James

do you have any idea how much salary Nico Rosberg is getting from Brawn? This seems to be an important question as if he is getting more than the WDC how can that be? Perhaps this is why JB is unhappy…

If NR is getting more then JB then he should sign for McLaren & show all you doubters just how good he is! Hope we hear very soon as too many people are getting upset over this years drivers market. ALL F1 drivers are paid too much money just as footballers are but if the teams are willing to pay then why noy try for the best deal you can.

JB needs Martin Brundle to be his manager & keep Mr Goddard as his financial advisor. Feel for JB he can’t seem to win no matter what he does…:-)

10

Button is a great driver, but he is no hamilton, Kimi, Alonso. I rate these drivers as the top 3. Remember Button cannot drive a car unless it is perfect. Hamilton, Kimi and Alonso like schumi get the most out of the car every time. Hamilton and Kimi were the best two drivers in the second half of the season. Ross brawn looked after the best driver on the grid for 10 years. If he thought Button was world class, he would pay the $$. Obviously he doesn’t. If Button oes to mclaren he will get his ass wipped by Hamilton.

11
Cockney James Hunt

Speed comes with confidence. JB’s is sky high. I think he’ll do well at MaClaren. As for Brawn, I don’t buy doubts about next years car. He’s Ross Brawn. He doesn’t do duds. He’s also a pragmatist, I think, and realises that although drivers are a key component to the success of a team, their salary demands cannot be allowed compromise the fiscal wellbeing of what is currently a small, independent team.

12
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, do any of the current drivers negotiate their own contracts as Gerhard Berger did?

13

Vettel, apparently, with the help of a lawyer (and some tips from Bernie)

14

Why were Kimi and Jenson at the factory this week negotiating instead of a conferance room? Because they decided in that room who will partner Nico Rosberg at Brawn and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.

There are 2 candidates:

Kimi Raikkonen- Fast and expensive, and thats not just the magnum bill. From what I have heard money is no longer a problem with McLaren, actually there isnt a problem, everything is signed and sealed and has just been deleyed over the mercedes thing. This would have all been discussed on tuesday.

Whilst with Brawn they have been negoitiating for several weeks I suspect. Brawn did say “They are negotiating as if the Ferrari compensation doesn’t exist”. Now there are a few possibilities on why he said that. He could be trying to keep the press quiet, or he really is being stubborn!!! With Mercedes money in that team they will do everything they can to get the best drivers possible. People still believe that Jenson isnt as good as Kimi Fernando, Lewis and Vettel (though I disagree with Lewis). I am sure Mercedes remember what a talent he was when he drove those Maccas. With a German driver in the team I am sure they can afford to pay half of Kimis $17+ million demands, whilst Brawn pays the other half. Or maybe they will lower the demand for Nico to do all the PR days?

Jenson Button- Jenson is cheaper than Kimi, but do they want a cheap and cheerful driver? Ferrari will have a superstar pairing of Felipe and Fernando. Arch rival McLaren want something to rival that a.k.a Kimi. Jenson isnt the complete driver. Who got more points with the worse car in the second half of the season? Kimi. You cant say that it was pressure, because Kimi won a championship in 2007 under pressure and almost won in 2003, and the reason he lost was becuase of the car, not Kimi.

Well Jenson is maybe staying at Brawn and that is my guess. But you never know, and Mercedes holds the key to this because if they want Kimi they will probably get Kimi. But for Jense I guess the best move is stay at home in Brawn, where he knows the atmosphere.

Whatever happens, we will know next week.

15

plus Kimi is a world champion james, Mclaren are after the last 3 champions.

16

Plus Kimi has a really good relationship wit Norbert Haug.

17

James,

In a way, I sort of feel for Lewis. He will never fully get the recognition his talent deserves till he moves team.

What do you think?

18

He has a lot of people who don’t like him, that’s for sure, but I don’t think he needs to move teams, just to do a good job

19

James, when these teams are plotting their strategies, do you think they consider the Constructors vs the Drivers Championships?

20

Having read a few of the comments it seems that some people are using this to give some more grief to Lewis! It s not his fault that Jenson is in this position.

He could go to McLaren and I think that James is right when he says that he would be following him home each race. Okay not every race but a good 75%. Lewis is that good.

His first season he beat the excellent double world champion, his second he won beating a strong Ferrari team and this season has been his best!!!

His team love him and they know that they have a winner, the real deal.

Jense should think about it then sign the best deal that he can get at Brawn.

Surely that has to be right.

As for Kimi, sign for MM and see if you can catch Lewis, I doubt it over the season.

21

Kimi is very polarizing…. any time James mentions him in a thread the posts explode…..

For the most laid back driver on the grid it is funny how much people run to his side or call him out….

I would hate to see him out of F1 personally, he seems to be one of the few “real racers” left in F1

22

Kimi might not have been the right man for Ferrari, and the journalist may not like him, but the fans loves him!

23

If Button joins McLaren, I will think he is a brave man. I am no fan of Lewis, but he is one top drivers on the grid and I think he would destroy Button. Of course if Button matches him or even beats him then he’ll be remembered a lot better in 20 years time. If he stays at Brawn, there will always be the feeling that he did luck into his WDC. So personally I think he McLaren should be his first choice so he can show what he has got. There is a high risk of humiliation but if he succeeds than the rewards to his reputation will be great!

I still want Kimi at McLaren, and I think McLaren want him the most. I’ve said this before but if Ferrari and McLaren have similar performance next year, then McLaren will stand NO chance against them in the constructors. Imagine if Massa was replaced by say, Kovalainen in 2007, Ferrari would have been a mile behind. McLaren and Ferrari will have an equal line up next year if Raikkonen joins.

I know his reputation was virtually destroyed last year, because of that run of 4 non-points finish which ended his title defence, but he is still a worthy world champion, McLaren acknowledges he should have been a triple world champion by now and if you want to win races or titles then you just need to give him a fast and reliable car and he will deliver. One bad season does not mean he has lost motivation or whatever. I feel he gets judged very harshly these days, in Malaysia he was branded lazy and not motivated when his car failed and he got out, he was knocked out in Q1 because of a silly mistake on his and Ferrari’s behalf, but when Hamilton radioed the team to let him park his car when there was no chance of him scoring points or when Massa was knocked out of Q1 in Malaysia, no one criticises him. I think people are just trying to critcise him with whatever he does.

24

I like how the majority of people are convinced that Hamilton will struggle with tyre wear next year. This year his tyre management has been impeccable. A 1 stopper in Turkey, combined with total control of his tyres during his 2 race wins. What people seem to forget is that even though his style is oversteery, he actually spends very little time traversing the corners in comparison to most (all?) of the other drivers, hence Heikki (who appears to be much smoother) having his fair share of tyre issues this year. But forgetting all that gumf, at the end of the day it’s the characteristics of the chassis that have the most effect on how a car works its tyres… something that was only to obvious this year when comparing the Brawn and Red Bull.

25

Finances and politics were the sole reason Button ended up with a car that was artifically better then the best on the grid. Hence the dullest season to date, with a very dull driver scamming the WDC.

Lets hope the FIA, under Jean Todt, will be not as blatantly corrupt and unprofessional, as it clearly has been under Max.

F1 deserves to fail if it carries on in Max’s legacy of race fixing for financial and personal gain…

26

I Like Jenson and I think he deserves to be the WCH, but he cannot come near Kimi if McLaren is serious about getting the best available driver. Jenson has had a few great races, but Kimi has had great years only with McLaren with some outstanding and historical races. He is knonw by Macca as the most talented and fastest driver ever. Maybe that is why Jenson is a better option in the second car for Mclaren and defeninitely for Hamilton.

27

James

I think Jenson should go to MClaren as I think he deserves a bigger slice than Brawn is offering. Also, I for one don’t think he will be humbled by Lewis. Lewis rose in the second half of 09, Jenson slipped, this is colouring people’s view to some extent. Should they both have equal status I think it will be a close run thing.

28

l seem to agree with Martin here, Button is only trying to run away from Rosberg. Coming home second to Hamilton is much more acceptable than doing the same honours at Brawn next year – given a good car Rosberg could even beat Vettel any given day. Taking Button’s poor setup abilities into account his job would be much easier at Mclaren because everybody expects him to come second, he can just whine like Alonso, or claim favouritism like Heikki on his last racing year, close with a bigger bank balance and image intact….problem solved.

I prefer Kimi in that seat to see who is really the king of F1, however l suspect Lewis will have an edge over him as he is much stronger mentally now than he was back in 2007 he won’t get that lucky again. Lewis is better at overcoming adversity more than any other driver on the grid, l’m sure he’ll adjust to next year’s regulations better than we imagined – he turned a dog into a race winner which to me makes him the best driver at developing a car, even Alonso couldn’t develop Renault.

Please Mclaren, sign Kimi, give them the same setup so we can see who will reign supreme….come 2010 come.

29

“He turned a dog into a race winner which to me makes him the best driver at developing a car, even Alonso couldn’t develop Renault.”

while i agree that Hamilton is becoming a more complete driver every time he sits in the car – i think McLaren’s far superior development capabilities compared to Renault also played a part this season.

30

I think someone should remind Jenson about what happened to John Watson. He haggled for too long about money and was displaced by Alain Prost becomeing available. He therefore missed out on driving the McLaren Tag turbo… As Keke Rosburg one noted “very important, patches” when Williams offered him much the same deal as Brawn has Jenson.

31

Hmmm, from an Aussie fans point of view – I think Jenson as a driver is miles behind Lewis and Kimi. I’m surprised people are clamouring over his services.

I would rank him around 10th in the 2009 driver line-up as far as driving talent goes. Somewhere around Heikki and Buemi.

32

Agree.

(Also from Aus.)

34

I dont have to go far to feel ‘valued’, maybe thy’d take *me? Except maybe for that extra hundred pounds of mass to drag around?

35

The concept that Button at McLaren would start the season as a designated #2 makes no sense. All the points that both cars earn determine McLarens finish in the championship, therefore how much prize money they earn. The team has the resources and financial incentive to field two cars that will be what McLaren feels will give them the best chances at winning. As the season progresses the results will determine which driver is #1.

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