Yesterday Jenson Button said that it was up to McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh as to whether he stayed at McLaren, “If he takes up the option. All he has to do is say yes, and I will say yes because I want to be here next year. It’s up to the team as to when they approach me, but for me I’m the happiest I’ve been with the car.”
Today Whitmarsh said categorically that Button will be a McLaren driver next season; “Jenson will be here next year,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “We know that, he knows that. There’s nothing complicated about it. But we’re looking to do a deal that will see him race for McLaren for the rest of his career.
“That may be for the next three years or the next five years. Who knows? Jenson is a mature and very intelligent guy. And he is still as fit as a flea and still hungry to race. He could take on an ambassador’s role for McLaren.”
The situation as I understand it is that the team has an option on him for next season. Both sides want a longer deal than that, perhaps two or three years, but Button wants to be paid a sum more closely aligned to his team mate Lewis Hamilton, who signed a long-term deal in the pre-credit crunch days.
There is a deadline coming up soon on the option and McLaren will take it up regardless of where the negotiations are at that point, hence the certainty that he will be at McLaren next year. But if the two sides cannot agree on the fee, then Button could in theory be free to move at the end of 2012, when seats are likely to come up at Red Bull and at Ferrari.
Button had some discussions with Red Bull, but team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has a long personal relationship with Mark Webber and this seems to have overridden whatever anyone else in the team might have wanted.
Meanwhile he is on the Ferrari radar along with Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica.
Webber, who has always publicly maintained that he does his deals direct with Mateschitz, is taking it a year at a time and will review his position next summer.