Is Button being pushed out or is he playing the game wrong?
McLaren
Is Button being pushed out or is he playing the game wrong?
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Nov 2009   |  9:29 pm GMT  |  187 comments

Tomorrow’s papers in the UK will be full of stories about how Mercedes’ takeover of Brawn means that the team will have an all German driver line-up, while Jenson Button is being pushed towards an all-English line up of Button and Lewis Hamilton. Indeed the Guardian is reporting this evening that Button is on the point of signing a £6m a year contract for three years. As the piece is written by Alan Henry, who knows what colour the toilet paper is in Woking from one day to the next, this news needs to be taken seriously.

(Photo: Darren Heath)

(Photo: Darren Heath)


So is that the correct reading or is Button just playing his hand badly?

There are some echoes of Damon Hill’s situation in 1996 where his manager was looking to leverage the world championship (although Damon hadn’t won it at that stage) into a better deal for the following year and found that Frank Williams signed Heinz Harald Frentzen instead, leaving Damon without a winning car. In that case, arguably, Williams had already decided to replace Damon and when Damon’s management tried the hard sell Williams just activated the Frentzen deal.

Damon was pushed out, Button is in a better position in that he has had an offer on the table for some time, albeit one in which the fixed fee and the performance based fee is more slanted towards the latter than he wants, given his status as a world champion.

Brawn’s management say they have increased the deal since Button won the title, but they feel that they have played their part in his success too. The door is very much still open to Button to stay with the team. They are not actively pursuing anyone else and feel no great time pressure to do so, knowing that the likely candidates will hold out to see if the drive comes up.

Nick Heidfeld certainly heads that list. I sense that Kimi Raikkonen is more likely to end up, if anywhere, at McLaren rather than Brawn, not just because of the financial side of things, but because of question marks over motivation and consistency. This is not me saying this, but people on the inside of the teams in question.

So Brawn/Mercedes may end up with two German drivers next season, but it will not be because they want two Germans, more that having signed Nico Rosberg some time ago, should Jenson Button decide to call their bluff, the next best driver in line who will get them solid constructors’ championship points every time is Heidfeld. Heidfeld has been hanging out in the hope that either a Brawn or a McLaren seat comes up. He may be lucky.

Much is being made of the idea of Mercdes wanting two German drivers, but Ross Brawn is making the decisions here and I don’t think he would and up with Rosberg and Heidfeld if he started out with a blank sheet of paper. It’s more to do with how circumstances pan out.

As for Button, you can see it from his point of view, he knows that the Alonsos and Hamiltons of this world are on around €15 million per season, of which the fixed part is greater than the performance part, but Hamilton’s deal was done before the credit crunch changed everything. Button had a nice deal set up with Honda, took a pay cut to stay with Brawn and now wants to go back to Honda style money. But the teams aren’t looking to spend like that kind of money anymore. Button’s management clearly feel that Mercedes can afford Honda money, but they don’t want to bite.

And there have been signs all year that the teams talk to each other more than they used to, as a result of the FOTA alliance and the resource restriction agreements and are not wanting to be played off against each other.

The next move is Button’s. It looks like he’s about to make it.

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1

I hope Jenson doesn’t regret the move, Ross is one of the few people in F1 who can really deliver at the top, Adrian Newey being the other, IMHO.

The tussle at McLaren should be great to watch though. Two drivers in the same team with equivalent machinery (lets hope) who can actually overtake should be fun. Roll on March.

2

Interesting comment earlier about a certain 41yr old. Will old colleagues be reunited – Ross and Schumi? Under a German constructor. The said 41yrs old could prepare and tune the car up for when Vettel joins in a couple of yrs. Would that not be a lovely surprise? Maybe the surprise Haug suggested…..

3

Jenson at McLaren a no lose situation ??

If we asume that Jenson winning this years championship was a major unexpected bonus for him could a 3 year contract with McLaren be the perfect solution.

Jenson knows that Mercedes main aim is to get Vettel on board and will expect them to make strong efforts to prise him away from Redbull and maybe his career at Brawn/Merc might be a short one.

A decent salary that Jenson feels reflects his status coupled with a 3 year deal would appeal. What about Lewis?. Here is where I feel Jenson has nothing to lose. Many regard Lewsi as the out and out quickest guy out there. If jenson gets blown away by his teammate in many ways it will be expected and not a reflection on Jenson himself. If however jenson not onyl keeps Lewsi in sight but from time to time genuinely outpaces him, then this can only increase Jenson stock and reputation in F1.

With a WDC in the bag, Jenson may just take the view that he can now relax, enjoy his sport and the earnings it provides and map out what he hopes will be a long career at the top end of the grid.

4

Good on you Jenson, you won the world championship under difficult circumstances. Unlike Damon in 1994-6 you didn’t really have just one single contender challenging you (the unforgiving Schumacher 94-95 and quick upstart Villeneuve 96′) but three (Barrichello – people forget how good he is, Webber – so underrated – blindingly fast, and young Vettel – a pain on any day!) And you beat them all.

Hats off to Jenson. Hill, Mansell and Coulthard couldn’t have done a better job. As for Hamilton, I think he’ll answer that question next year when he takes him on as a Mclaren driver.

Britain is proud of Jenson, he’s a true british racer, a deserved champion and one who will only get better and better. Here’s to 2010!

And Jenson if you read this – don’t believe the “analysis” from all the papers, do your talking on the track like you did this year.

And to the other staring columnists in this 100 point blog, show some respect to Jenson – he’s a real bloke with feelings!

5

James,

One of the interesting things in the whole Button McLaren Brawn/Mercedes saga is that whilst Mercedes have spoke about money for 2010 they have not discussed length of contract. McLaren, if the stories are true, have offered a 3 year deal. Personally I believe he would be better to take the longer McLaren deal – even if it was less per year as I get the distinct feeling that he would only be keeping the Mercedes seat warm for Vettel to arrive in 2011 – contracts as we have seen with the Ferrari/Kimi situation can be broken if there is a desire and you get the impression that Mercedes don’t want to repeat the experience of not having the best German in their car. Button is only 29 so you could expect him to reasonably have at least 5 years remaining so is there a piece about not so much this deal but the one after and I think the long game is where Button is pitching – at least if he gets in a McLaren now he has a good shot of finishing his career there as they have a history of holding on to their drivers.

So back to the second seat at Mercedes – I think this could be Schumacher, whilst he is 41 next year I think there is a possibility of him coming back to Mercedes for one year until Vettel arrives in 2011. From a Schumacher perspective it would complete the circle going back to where he started with Mercedes, plus the Ross Brawn factor

James, what do you think?

6

2+2 = 4. I don´t think Button is playing here, certainly the drivers should know for sometime what´s going on and hey were only a part on the chess game. Simple he Super Britshi team and the Super German team. The real only loser if everything goes according to rumors should be Kimi, but i think he´s money demands and he´s lack of commitment had made him undesirable for any top team, let´s face it if Ferrari dumps a World Champion a reason has to be there.

7

Well, I had a good time reading everything here. Good to see all points of view. I will be brief with mine…..I have seen Button racing fiercely against Alonso in Utube and beat him ina great duel. I have seen this year, how this guy has overtaken cars with the accuracy worth of surgery. Button has never been able to get a championship winning car until this year…he got it, he won! It is well known that he used the same chassis all year long and that, from Turkey, Brawn switched the car development in to the BGP002 with will be the next year silver arrow. Button, had to push with an underdeveloped car and he delivered!.

I personally think that Button’s move to McLaren will be the best move for him. Here are my points on why:

1. He will get stability for 3 years

2. McLaren, besides Ferrari has been the most successful team in history

3. Hamilton’s skill will make him do his best and he won’t be crying like Alonso did in 2007 (Alonso had the chance of beating Lewis, but he was too agressive with the car, hurting the tires and suspensions, thus hampering the performance a couple of times…I cannot forget Sato overtaking him in a SA!). Button has proven to be a gentleman and mature enough to be the parfect team mate for Hamilton.

4. The experience of Button will count when the races come by and we will see 2 great drivers fighting.

5. Button has been very loyal to his former team and he absolutely deserves to get his sacrificed money back and a better contract.

I am not too good at words but, I need to say that I predicted this years outcome stating that Brawn would be Champs and that Button would be the Driver. I have seen how McLaren has been using the this years races as “Testing Sessions” to develop parts for the next year’s car(parts that worked perfectly in raising the bar for the current car). I can foresee McLaren starting a new dynasty like the one they enjoyed in the Lauda/Senna/Prost era.

We will see what happens next year…

8

For any real competitor it’s a no-brainer to go to Maclaren whether Maclaren is offering more or less money than Brawn. Obviously, Jenson believes that he is the best driver in F1, or at least better than Hamilton, and he wants the chance to show it. What media pundits and most of the posters here seem to fail to understand is that the competition is an end in itself – it is a fallacy that drivers are more concerned about their ‘reputations’ than actually going out and beating the best. If Button wanted a comfortable big pay cheque and guaranteed glory, he’d waltz off to Indy or something.

9

James

Salaries quote;

“But the teams aren’t looking to spend like that kind of money anymore.”

How much is Ferrari paying Alonso?

10

James, can imagine German Schui at German Merc?

I read your book about Schui and you said that Merc secretely tried to get him at Mclaren and paired again with Ross Brawn would be the dream team for all involved!

11

Yes, except that it’s 10 years too late!

12

James, is there any chance Schuey could go to Mercedes GP as a consultant or is he completely tied up with Ferrari? He could be good influence on Rosberg.

13

James

Surely the biggest mistake Jenson made was last year in not taking an equity stake in the Brawn outfit in liew of such a big pay cut.

You could therefore argue that Jenson and his management team aren’t really that switched on and it is more about the racing, hence why Maclaren seem so appealing.

Anyhow, my main question is this debate about driving styles and car set ups. If Lewis is such an adaptable driver, would he prefer to have someone in his garage who he could compare a polar position to.

So assume Jenson sets his car up differently, and is then quicker than Lewis, would this be more valuable to Lewis in understanding where the quick laps are.

I would like to think that if you gave any top driver a car that is inherintly quick, they would not want to make it slower in order to suit their driving style!!

They should have the ability to adjust the driving style, especially if its the difference between winning races or not.

14

Schumacher to make F1 return in a Mercedes?

Schumacher has apparently quit (can you confirm) his advisory role with Ferrari. Maybe Heidfield is just a cover, and Michael could drive alongside Nico?

Discuss…

15

I think theres a to more to this than meets the eye. You have a driver who took a pay cut to secure the future of a team that had several unsuccesful buyout discussions pre season. Then the team organises a management buy out thats only possible with the help of mercedes engines. Fast forward end of the season team is now sold to merc and managers who orchestrated buy out get extremley rich, brawn to the tune of 35 million. I can understand why Button wants more money and i was honda i would be asking for some back!! brawn and fry have done something terrfic this season but lets not forget they are now both vey rich men, why not give jenson what he gave up and also the guys back at brackley who lost their jobs this year!!!

16

Button is, without doubt, the worst World Champion Formula One had after 1996 when Damon Hill won. He didn’t win one sigle race after Spanish GP this year and I doubt he would have won the championship with the old point-scoring system 10,6,4 etc.

Anyway, Button’s move at McLaren means to me that he is taking it downhill, just like Hill took it over a decade ago.

Doesn’t he know that Macca is in deep love with Hamilton? What makes he think that he will be treated differently than Alonso and Kovalainen were? He is British but he will still be “the other driver at McLaren” for as long as Hamilton will be there. And this is forever.

Button needs a team that loves him and that is a full stop.

Although I understand Merc’s option to hire to German drivers (one with Scandinavian blood), I don’t think is a good one. We have already seen the best of Heidfeld, while Rosberg could be “the next one” just like he could be a total failure. Only time will tell.

As for Kimi… he would be a better bet at McLaren than Button because he is just good to play the lieutenant role that Berger, Coulthand and Barrichello played so well.

17

S2K

During the Season all the top teams upped the ante, but Brawn admits work was stopped on on the Car in the season (Money?) to concentrate on Next years design.

Looking at the performances when the first, so called, ‘Updates’ that Brawn installed to try and improve the car, they actually appeared to make the car worse.

Was the original design one that they couldn’t improve on?

So it was actually GREAT driving by Jenson and Rubens that produced results later on Not the Car.

It was interesting that when Lewis Hamilton was interviewed, he said he couldn’t understand when the temperatures were high at the tracks, Brawn kept saying they couldn’t get temps in their tyres?

18

At last someone with some sense, Jenson lucked into the title with a car no-one could touch, when the others caught up, guess what, Jenson could not win a race, even with a faster car in abu dhabi he could not overtake webber in a badly handling car, Lewis would have done the job and made it stick..

19

About the Supposedly New McLaren Driver Pair, they have contrast driving styles and as already mentioned here about the New Refuelling fan and Tire management skills requirement, who adapts better than the other.

How will Jenson who likes understeer adapt to car that is design around oversteering driving preference of Lewis.

Irony of fate will be Jenson doing Sato like spins/crashes. I remember Sato suffering silently with “Uninformed Crowds” Jeering on his spins, totally unaware that the then BAR car was always designed taking into mind Button’s liking for Understeer.

20

Hmmmmm, Button beaten by Hamilton over a season. Maybe, Hamilton is more versatile for sure and more agressive. This pairing would definitely be the Prost Senna era replayed that I grew up on but without the messy in-fighting and bickering.

I’m more of a Button fan but do acknowledge Hamilton as the better racer, however, I think it would be far far closer than most people think.

People are continually going on and on and on about how Rubens out qualified Jenson.

Didn’t do him any good whatsoever.

Button well outraced Rubens. And if overtaking is anything to go by Button cleaned the floor.

Rubens had the chance to win his coveted home grand prix and yet Button probably overtook as many cars and made up as many places during that race as Rubens had in the whole season.

Rubens had a couple of pole to wins, but didn’t show much else the rest of the time, except a bit of whinging.

I always wanted Jenson to stay at Brawn, but right now I couldn’t think of a more exciting future than racing against one of the best in equal(ish) machinery.

I hope mercedes don’t ruin the special atmosphere that we all saw at Brawn and the one that enabled (an albeit initially well funded but nonetheless) a veritable minnow of a team take two titles in their maiden year.

21

if kimi leaves f1,f1 will no longer be the same.please sign with someone kimi

22

Button has repeatedly been described as being between a rock and a hard place, but I think it’s more like he’s stuck between a soft, feathery pillow and a slightly firmer, but still very comfortable, cushion.

At the moment you’d have to say Mercedes is probably the best bet for Jenson. They’ve clearly bought themselves a really strong team and with Ross Brawn at the helm can be confident of sustaining their success so far. At the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that Honda had poured a staggering amount of money into the car that would become the BGP001, far more than Brawn were capable of spending and far more than Mercedes will be willing to. We’ve seen Brawn’s pace drop off in the latter half of the season, supposedly because they’ve been concentrating on next year’s car, but I find it hard to believe that more of that effort wasn’t transferable to the BGP001, given that the cars aren’t going to change that much going into 2010.

On the other side of the fence you have McLaren, whose racing record speaks for itself and who would probably be more than happy to splash a little cash for the cachet of having the two most recent WDCs in their cars, and Button would be far cheaper than Raikkonen anyway. Any doubts about Martin Whitmarsh’s ability to lead the team I think have been soundly banished following McLaren’s strong march back to the front of the grid and, now there’s a bit more distance between themselves and Mercedes, the idea of McLaren as an all-British super team could be a strong marketing tool.

The eight million dollar question though, is how would Hamilton and Button get on as a pairing? I don’t think Hamilton will automatically be quicker, straight out of the box. I’d certainly expect him to have an edge, but the rule changes should play into Button’s hands to an extent and if you look back to Kovalainen’s performances in 2008 you can see that he often had the measure of Hamilton in terms of ultimate speed, frequently posting a quicker fastest race lap, but he never had the consistency to match and was generally 2-3 tenths down on Lewis. Consistent lapping could be Button’s middle names, if they weren’t already Alexander and Lyons. If he can remain within a tenth of Hamilton, then you’d have to expect the mature, tactical racing Button has demonstrated this year to bring him home in front at least some of the time. The biggest challenge for Button will be integrating with the team, after having grown used to being the main man at Honda/Brawn. The culture at McLaren has not always been conducive to this, but based on what David Coulthard has said in the past, I have to wonder whether that will change now Ron Dennis is not in charge.

23

Good Comment !

I also don’t subscribe to the notion that Hamilton will slaughter Button – next year is all going to be about tyres and their preservation, not about raw tyre destroying pace – Button will be “Prostlike” I’m sure whilst I think Hamilton is going to have to change his style & learn quickly (maybe from a few early Button master classes)how to drive smoother without the tyre wrecking loose rear end he seems to love so much especially on the heavy fuel loads they’ll be carrying at the start of the races next year – Button’s style / skills could even buy him (negate the need for) a complete extra pit stop in some races.

And what a great boost & motivational tool it will be for the “Kovalainen” side of the garage to also be working with a British Formula One World Drivers Champion – the internal team rivalry will be great to watch as well as the on track rivalry between Hamilton and Button – whilst all being aligned with the common goal of whooping the new “German-ish” team on the Grid’s butts 🙂 Roll on 2010 🙂

(But never underestimate an Adrian Newey Designed Car)

24

Your all kidding yourselves, Lewis will crush Jenson on the track, Lewis is by far the more skilled racer, Jenson is a second rate F1 driver and lucked into the title with a car no-one could touch. It showed during the second half of the season he could not win anything, because other teams caught up and his advantage quashed, Lewis on the other hand can race and beat them in a bad car!!

25

If Lewis could race and beat him in “Bad” car then why didn’t he – he only started to get better results when McLaren made the car better.

26

I struggle to see why McLaren would want Button, they have never been interested in him in the past and surely the last half of the season he proved he was falable and his speed is questionable, would he have won the championship without the car advantage in the first half of the season? I dont think so…

He is quick, but he is not the quickest and up against Lewis he will be beaten every time. McLaren know this and this is why they are taking him on to grab points to back up Lewis so that they win the constructors, they are not looking for a race winner, they want a drive to earn points, which Heikki failed to consistently do. Just my opinion…

27

Last season (and a couple before that) also showed that Lewis is fallable.

Some key offs, spins and a fair share of Q1 grid slots at the beginning were only a reflection of what Button experienced in the latter half while Lewis enjoyed the spoils of a richly developed car and Button had to scrape by on his old chassis.

Button had one off during a race, SPA (not his fault, Lewis retiring at the same time) and one spin only during the entire season.

Not really that bad, nor that fallable.

28

It would be just awesome to see Kimi in a silver arrow. I think he’s the best there is in F1 and if his luck holds then will blow everyone away. Remember how fast he was at McLaren when Mercedes engines were all blowing off. I think Mercedes owes him a drive….at salary of Kimi’s choice!

29

Kimi`s management should just sign a contract regardless money. Kimi has earned approx. 300 million in his carreer so far…He should just go for it for another two years and finish with F1 at high.

30

I do not understand why people question Kimi`s consistency. Was Button consisten in 2009? Was Hamilton consistent? An undermotivated Kimi has scored quite good points with a crap car, I think.

31

I sense that Mercedes and Brawn are not prepared to offer Button the big-bucks of an Alonso or a Hamilton because he was consistently outqualified by Rubinho in the second half of the year and seemed to go off the boil somewhat, although his Brazil race drive was epic. Maybe if he’d ended the year the way he started it then he would have looked a better bet. Does remind me of Damon and Williams. I read Maurice Hamilton’s new book on Williams and there’s one story of Damon’s manager meeting Frank in his office, slamming down a briefcase and saying ‘the bidding starts at 15 million’. Frank wasn’t impressed and told him where to go. I wonder if Button’s manager has displayed the same lack of tact. It certainly isn’t classy having it all out in the press, portraying Brawn as the bad guy. Either way, he will earn millions next year to drive a formula 1 car…I find it hard to cry for him!

32

James,

Jensen should stay at Mercedes (nee Brawn) and repay the loyalty that the team showed him.

33

And what about the loyalty Jens had for BAR/HONDA/BRAWN?

7 years, 4 Naff cars, 1 Medoicre car (2006) and 2 good cars (2004 when the Ferrari was unbeatable that year & 2009).

It’s a shame Merc don’t want the No 1 on their cars next year, I personally think Jens will be able to take the fight to Hamilton. Go Button!

34

You have allured throughout the season that Mercedes wanted to create their own team. I feel Brawn signed Rosberg about the time of the Spanish Grand Prix, which could explain why Barichello broke ranks and could be open and show emotion and have his rant. I also think Button started negotiations with Mclaren around the Italian Grand Prix, which would explain why Hamiliton felt the need to chase him down aggressively in the race – with an aim to gain an early upper hand.

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