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Behind the Button contract story
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Sep 2011   |  5:02 pm GMT  |  81 comments

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.

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When you look past vettel, Lewis and Alonso, jenson is always there, ready to make a move. Look at Spa, all that trouble with quali, new nose etc, he finished 3rd. Canada, the same thing.

He has been so unlucky this year what with faliures, bad stragegy, team letting him down.

If you compare him to lewis, Jenson would be ahead of where Lewis is now in the WDC if the team hadnt let him down and lewis was left to be a bull in a china shop!

He out did Lewis at Monza, passing him and Schumi when Lewis was struggling to pass.

I would rather see Jenson Out do Lewis, move to Redbull or ferrari who has a more reliable car and see how Lewis fairs then!


Its funny how winning a championship changes a driver. Just look at the effect it has had on Button and Vettel. It seems to have matured them both.

Whilst the title count hasn’t been in their favour recently, McLaren seem to have the best development team in the field. This has been shown by their ability to develop cars whilst starting behind the eight ball. This ability to react is something I would be looking for as a driver. No team is going to have the best inovation each year (witness even Newey not thinking of the F-duct).


For me, JB is the most rounded, settled, calmest driver there is on the grid, Most if not ALL the top drivers allow their emotions to effect their driving, LH this year in Frustration of Vettels Dominance this year. Vettel when beaten by Webber, Alonso when the car isn’t right or someone else got in the way. How often do you hear of JB complaining of someone else or of the team in such a way as the others do ? For me JB would take sense and stay at Mac and see out his retirement with them, if anything the DC and Mika combination worked for what ? 6/7 seasons I believe! and netted Two WDCS and Two WCCS, LH An JB make for good team mates and don’t seem to let their on track fights effect their off track friendship, and there seems to be a clear understanding between the pair because of such battles. Both making their claims and staking their positions to each other, I am here and I am going no where !

The situation at the Red Devils is evident to those who open their eyes, FA will never want a driver in that team that can compete and beat him ! just the same as Sch ! Vettel will be locked down tight so that NO ONE can place their hands on RB’s asset ! Webber to retire at the end of 2012 and Rosberg to go to the Red Devils he wont beat FA but he will keep him honest, Massa to perhaps Renault, and Kubica to RB without a doubt ! LH an JB to stay at Mac: Its not what you have done, Its what you do now and for the future that makes the difference !


It takes more than being a ‘good bloke’ to win a WDC…I like Button, liked Damon Hill better. Whenever he beat Schumacher you knew he had over achieved…which makes the win more satisfying.

As good as Button is, McLaren will be VERY unwise to let Hamilton go. Ron wouldn’t stand for it…Whitmarsh would loose his job immediately! Why do you think Ron is at the races more nowadays? There is a real feeling that Lewis is very tired of being second to Vettel…he REALLY looks annoyed with RB’s dominance. That’s the sign of a real champion in my opinion…passion for winning. Even if we all agree that it makes Lewis try too hard sometimes…it’s what we need in this sport….Seb also sulks when he doesn’t win…champions both. Who wants to be happy with second? Ask Rubens..


I’d imagine Ron is at races because Anthony Hamilton isn’t Lewis’s manager anymore, and Ron is filling in the shoes to guide Lewis back on track when he needs it.

Just my feeling 😛


End of 2012, I see Massa and Rosberg moving to be no.2s at RB and Macca (although not sure which driver to which team). Jenson to no.2 at Ferrari. Di Resta to Merc with MSC. Webber to retire.

Well, this whole blog seems to be full of people making spurious predictions, so why not add mine?…


Every driver dreams of driving for Ferrari (Almost everyone)! Even Senna said he would have liked to end his career there!

Maybe is JB looking at going to Ferrari and retire with the Scuderia? It is possible but then apart from Ferrari and maybe Red Bull, I don’t think Jenson would go anywhere else.

Massa is sure to look for a seat for 2013!


I have to admit, I like Button a lot nowadays. In the old days, with his slightly naff playboy persona and habit to sign for one team, then back out and drive for another, I wasn’t a fan. I don’t think he’ll ever win another World Championship while Hamilton is his team mate, but his reliability, consistency and professionalism would be an asset to any tea,.


Jenson is almost the perfect “second driver”. If I were RB or Ferrari I’d be looking to put him alongside SV or FA. He scores consistently well and accepts if his team mate is faster. I don’t know how valuable he is to sponsors, but I guess he’s a good resource in this respect. And don’t forget, when he has the best car in the field, he is always right there. I could see him at Ferrari, but I think he has more chance of a second WC with McLaren, as I can’t see him beating SV or FA. I think he can beat LH, but Lewis would be the favourite. If Lewis develops a more strategic mindset, I can’t see JB winning.


Don’t make me laugh. Button was in theory the number 2 at BAR and showed former WDC Villeneuve the way home quite a few times. He led the line at Brawn with a driver who was good enough on occasion to keep Schumacher honest at Ferrari when given the chance. I don’t buy that because he won in a superior car he doesn’t have the pace or the capability to lead the team. The last driver to win the WDC in a car that wasn’t demonstrably superior was probably Schumacher at Benetton – and that was 15 odd years ago. Get real, there’s probably a cigarette paper between the top 6. The difference in results is how they manage themselves and their mindset – look how Alonso tied himself in knots and diminished his standing after his torrid year at McLaren in 2007 when he was not mentally settled with the team. Personally if I ran a team Alonso and Button as equal partners would I think be the dream ticket though if Vettel continues to improve he would be in the running. Not sure I could give the the car to win though….


I like JB and I am a fan of Lewis but I am with the conventional wisdom that there are 3 drivers you want to build a team around SV, FA and LH. Yes JB is pretty quick and consistent, good at PR and very good in changeable conditions, making him a excellent No 2 in my opinion that is why Mac, RB and Fer are all interested in him. However, for mine he is in the tier below these 3. If you look at all the races this year and last excluding those that have had varying conditions look at were Lewis and JB were in relation to each other in either finishing positions or where they were when they had to retire Lewis would be ahead at least 80% of the time, look at qual and to a lesser extent practice and results would be similar. Plus most are saying that JB is driving better than ever and Lewis is having one of his worst season yet there is only a handful of points between them.

I think if you are a top team you need to have a driver who is capable over making up for a slight car deficiency (Mac and Fer have had significant deficiency over last two years not a slight one) and I am not sure JB can do that, I think the fact he needs to be able to gamble so often proves that.

Also I don’t buy into the Lewis being put off by JB’s consistent point scoring, for me Lewis has let the frustration of seeing the championship disappearing particularly to SV after 5 races getting the better of him and started over driving and making silly mistakes, no doubt this is something he has to fix but I don’t think it has cost him this years or last years championship they have both been RB’s to lose. If Mac were to have the best car I think Lewis’s natural speed would see him clear of JB and the car advantage would see him clear of the others.

My summary is that JB to stay for another 2 possible 3 years at Mac on an improved deal but not on Lewis or FA money and then maybe have a year at Ferrari, although if I was him

I would take the option for Mac next year and look to go to Fer in 2013 as surely FM can not be there longer than that.

Sir Nige


Jenson & Hamilton were met to be together.

Not only are they both British but both are the only drivers to win the WDC with the car 22, and doing so by finishing fifth.

And get this, both their surnames end with ”ton” so all in all, this is a partnership made in Heaven but with all good things, this too will come to an end.

With Hammy heading to Red Bull in 2013, this would in effect make Jens #1 at Mclaren & getting the pre-credit crunch numbers.

It’s really scary how Jenson can not only read a race but the future too. He jumped ship from Brawn at just the right time & now this … WOW!!!


Your comments scare me 🙂


Love the “still as fit as a flea” bit – Jenson is now “old” by F1’s new standards, someone you might even call a veteran. Having in mind that I’m more or less the same age with JB, I now officially declare myself a “veteran F1 fan” and I’m as fit as a flea when it comes to commenting and typing. Next thing you know Ricciardo will do some plastic surgery to make himself look younger. I suppose you can call guys like Ron Dennis dinosaurs?

Anyway, hope we’ll see more of JB in the McLaren and possibly one more F1 title to his name. A great bloke.

Slightly off-topic but I’m afraid I’m gonna lose my bet on D’Ambrosio scoring points this season, now I only have to choose which track will be better suited to my (in)famous run and invite F1 media for world-wide live coverage of this monumental event. I can even tweet during the whole thing – that’s so cutting edge and fan-friendly, OMG, LOL, FPKLMAOYATTKKLERT. I can sync it with my Muzzlebrochure account and put updates of PunkedOn and StooledDrd. Can’t believe my own coolness and modern approach to F1 coverage.


He’s only 31! That’s not old by F1 standards, that’s at the peak


“and this seems to have overridden whatever anyone else in the team might have wanted”.

What might they have wanted James ?


Given he is one of the best all-rounded drivers in F1 these days, he would certainly deserve a salary similar to (if not greater than) that of his team mate. Both of Jenson’s retirements this year have been to no fault of his own, and he would have a much larger lead over his team mate had he finished in the British and German GPs. His presence off the track is as impressive as it is off the track. Even when he is blaming poor performances on his team, he is very civil and amicable about it.


Ifs and buts!

Why would you pay someone similar or more when he’s slower less marketable and, but for one or two races, boring to watch unless you’re a complete anorak obsessing over minute steering imputs during the course of a race (Mark Hughes).


Would love to see Button in a Ferrari.


First-off, I’m a JB and McLaren fan. That said, JB would be crazy not to commit long-term to McLaren.

JB made poor team decisions early on with BAR/Honda/Williams (albeit making multiple millions along the way), and now seems smarter for it. He loves McLaren, McLaren loves him, and McLaren is (consistently) one of the sport’s top/winning teams. It’s a dream situation for a driver. At this point in his career, it makes no sense to start over elsewhere and risk all that.

Unfortunately for JB, it is post-credit crunch days. In reality, it’s no lose: he’ll make millions either way. The only question is how many millions. So prioritize the car, team, and cultural fit of McLaren, even if it means slightly fewer millions.

He would do well to seek Damon Hill’s counsel. In retrospect, I’m sure DH would’ve taken the lower-millions pay packet from McLaren than the higher-millions one from Arrows.


Putting together the skill sets of each driver pairing on the grid, I believe the McLaren duo have been the best driver combination this year and last. You can see why Martin Whitmarsh would want to keep both of them for as long as he can.

Alonso probably comes closest to combining the skills and speed of Lewis and Jenson in a single cockpit but like every driver, he has his weaknesses in other areas.

I don’t think Mark Webber and Massa will still be in F1 in 2013 so two of the very best seats will be up for grabs at the end of next season.

That easily explains why McLaren are so keen to tie Jenson in on a multi year deal. Yet, whoever goes to Ferrari will have to play second fiddle to Alonso.

I can’t see Jenson agreeing to that and it looks unlikely that Robert Kubica would accept clear No 2 status either.

It looks far more likely that one of the young guns will end up at Ferrari with Jenson, Lewis and Sebastian staying put.


This famous number two status at Ferrari is more to do with relative speed than anything else. If Felipe could compete with Fernando on a continuous basis (not just one off events) and be in a similar position in the WDC then there is no evidence that Ferrari would interfere? There are plenty of examples of wheel to wheel racing between Felipe and Fernando both in 2010 and 2011.

If Jenson or Robert can go there and perform to the same level as Fernando (and I don’t just mean pure speed, which is the mistake McLaren made), then that would be very profitable for Ferrari.

They let Kimi and Felipe race, albeit prioritising one of them if only he could win the WDC for Ferrari. Same for Fernando.


In the last 30 years Ferrari seem to have mostly gone for a supportive but not so fast second driver. Massa has occasionally surprised us but nobody puts him in the Hamilton/Alonso/Vettel/Button class.

The problem is Alonso. We have seen how he reacts to a challenging teammate like Hamilton : it wasn’t pretty when he tried to “persuade” Ron Dennis to give him number one status. That was never going to happen at McLaren.

After that experience, when it came to contract negotiations with Ferrari, it would be very likely that Fernando insisted on clauses in his contract giving him undisputed No 1 status and a veto over the choice of second driver.

If that’s the case, Massa’s replacement is unlikely to be Jenson. Why would he leave McLaren ?


Massa very nearly won the 2008 WDC. It may seem strange now, but it was not a foregone conclusion that Alonso would beat him at Ferrari.

There is another point of view about the Alonso-Hamilton-Dennis dynamic. The passage of time has illuminated the relative characteristics of the two drivers. Mainly, we now have a greater body of work available on which to consider Lewis Hamilton’s potential.

You are also making huge assumptions about Alonso’s ability to decide on Ferrari’s driver line-up. Why would Ferrari cede influence in this area to such a comparative newcomer?

Besides, what makes you think that Massa would be his choice?


I think Jenson’s performance at McLaren has pretty much exceeded most peoples expectations. I remember when he signed for them everyone saying it was madness and that Lewis would blow him away, which certainly hasn’t been the case, and this year you could certainly argue that he’s performing better than Lewis. I don’t think many would argue that Lewis is the faster, but Jenson is certainly the smarter. They compliment each other well and seem to have a good and harmonious relationship despite some thrilling wheel to wheel racing and the collision in Canada. And some credit there must go to Martin Whitmarsh as well as both drivers.

With Alonso and Vettel on long term contracts and with Ferrari and Red Bull respectively seeming not too keen on bringing Lewis into their respective teams to destabilise them. It looks like in the medium turn Lewis has no better options than sticking with McLaren.

Given all that and considering that according to rumours Jenson is getting about half of Lewis’s money I think its entirely understandable that he should want a more comparable deal. I’m pretty sure he’ll get it too.


I think he certainly would be a good ambassador for McLaren, but isn’t it a bit early to be thinking along those lines? Jenson could have five or six more seasons in F1, if not more.

Jenson is a great driving asset for the team. The fact that Hamilton’s speed does not faze him is key. I wonder if Hamilton is affected by Button’s points scoring consistency and general diffidence? He seemed happier when paired with Heiki.


I’m sure Hamilton is affected, he still thinks he’s head and shoulders above the rest so every time Jenson does it better it hurts.

As for Jenson, really he’s a new man after 2009: far less pressure, feels finally rewarded with a top-team drive, has been slowly turning McLaren into his team, great attitude in general and specially when he gets beaten by Hamilton.

Also, now that Ron Dennis is out of the picture finally McLaren has learned to manage their drivers.


Ron seems to have been in the picture on my TV a bit this weekend!


He was standing in the background at the drivers’ press briefing this evening too!


Jenson has really stepped up to the plate at mclaren and has a great level if consistency.

Had his from wing not been damaged at spa he’d surely have won that race.

Mclaren know they have a great driver on their hands. It’s quite interesting that both Lewis and jb mentioned the sponsor commitments recently. I wonder whether it is that that provides the sticking point. As a big fan of mclaren and jenson I hope to see that relationship continue for many years to come.


They’d be stupid not to sign him up. He’s driven extremely well this year, and he is a P.R. dream. He’s coherent, interesting, personable and utterly likeable.


Couldn’t agree more. Though it’s interesting to wonder what would have become of Jenson if the Brawn wonder car had not appeared and opened up

these opportunities…


I think he would have been picked up by another team by mid-2009. If not then, surely one of the new teams for 2010.

Vacancies like Massa’s Ferrari after Hungaroring come to mind (the accident would not have happened without Barrichello’s Brawn, of course).

Perhaps the seat at Williams that Barrichello now occupies!


You may be right and what a difference in fortunes that scenario would be, a slow Williams instead of a WDC and a seat in a McLaren…


The thing is, Button has always been this good – People just didn’t want to believe it. Remember 2004 when he was the only one getting anywhere near the Ferrari’s most of the time?

He never had a great car until the Brawn and then when he did everyone said he only won because of the car… It’s funny I don’t see people saying the same about Vettel now or about Alonso when he had a dominant Renault at the beginning of 05 & 06.

When Jenson moved to McLaren everyone said he would get crushed and I said on this very site that I doubt he’ll be more than a race win behind Lewis on points after the first season.

People are blinkered and Jenson has always been a class act – perhaps he doesn’t have the ultimate pace of Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel but he combats that with some storming drives and often relentless consistency in races.


Could not agree more , in 06 button scored more points than anyone after his win , in a car that was probably 3 rd fastest at best.


I’m just wondering what would happen if Button beat Hamilton this year in the standings. Let’s not forget that Button had a couple of DNF where the team let him down while Lewis managed his DNFs on his own.


Being fast in the wet is generally accepted as a measure of skill in most forms of motor sport , why it’s different for Button I cant work out? .every time Jenson has had a decent car he has proven his worth, . and when he hangs up his helmut that racing brain will be one of the best on the pitwall , definatly has the makings of a great team boss . Marco


It’s a very good point.

This season I think Button has shown enough to silence those who doubted the wisdom of his move to McLaren and to partner Lewis. Both have had the same number of DNFs, both have managed two victories, both have very similar points tallies – 3 points in Button’s favour.

If JB could just get his qualifying pace on a par with Lewis that might have translated into a bigger points difference by now…


If McLaren can get Button onto a long term contract it will increase the pressure on Hamilton, and make their negotiating position with him significantly stronger – his contract is up at the end of 2012. With Button on a four year deal, say, they have a guaranteed top driver/ ambassador/ sponsor magnet for the team (whatever the naysayers may think) – and they will pay top money to secure his services. Hamilton will find it hard to achieve the same (pre credit crunch) package as he is on now and his bargaining position (even if he runs away with the 2012 championship) is weak – Ferrari won’t want to destabilise Alonso who is under contract until 2016, Vettel is secure as the undisputed number one at Red Bull. WIthout the dramatic progression of Mercedes (and the retirement of Schumacher) or Renault – both of which would represent a gamble for Hamilton – I can see him having to accept that Button has become effectively the number one (most valued) man at McLaren – even if Hamilton continues to make headlines there for the next few years. For all the mistakes he made early in his career, Button has delivered, continues to deliver, and is leveraging that success with good, trusted advisors. Time will tell if Hamilton’s “people” can do the same for him. It would help if he could deliver a bit of the controlled professionalism of Button over the next 12 months alongside his awesome pace. I hope he does, as the pair of them can potentially dominate if McLaren deliver a quicker car from race one.


Jensen has twice made questionable moves in his F1 career, so for him to do so again is quite possible. He may very well not want to be tied down to McLaren for the rest of his career.

Everything goes in cycles and within the next year Ferrari may climb to the top again and McLaren decline. Then again Merc may be sailing along at the top by the end of next year when Schumi leaves, so Jensen may prefer to go back there.

However as KERS becomes more and more important McLaren may be the one to stick with.


Are you including the move to McLaren as one of the questionable moves?

Or are you referring to the non-move to Williams from BAR or Honda (can’t remember which) that had to be undone twice!

Was there a better option than the move to Benetton/Renault? Or the BAR move? I don’t think so, to be fair.

Staying with Brawn and waiving a major portion of his contracted Honda fee was a good move, but perhaps questionable at the time.

His recent career moves have been excellent (and motivated by factors other than money, it has to be said).


I see Kimi lurking behind the bushes at MTC, haha!

Jokes aside: I became a fan of JB.. Great drive at Spa but he needs a qualification engine!


I highly doubt they would take back Raikkonen. I was a fan but i expect Mclaren to be going after their next drivers who are both talented, and media/sponsor marketable.

Raikkonen was not.

I could see maybe Rosberg, Di Resta in at Mclaren when Button retires.


Would love to see a Raikkonen – Hamilton combination with Mclaren, probably the fastest ever pairing. Two drivers with oversteer style and racer attitude. Shame Kimi would not want to do Vodafone PR schedule. Its probably not going to happen now.


If all big teams sign their drivers for long term it will be less exciting for fans in my opinion (to see always the same guys in the best cars.) I also think that regardless of the recent races Button is not one of the top drivers and it would be a mistake to guarantee him a long-term seat in a top team. I would contract him for one year each time just as Red Bull do with Webber. Obviously he is a safe choice from Hamilton’s perspective, but I would prefer a faster driver in a Macca not a safe one.


You would prefer a different driver, and that is fair enough. McLaren seem to want Button and the fact is that, notwithstanding your not rating him as a top driver, he could very well get one of the other top line seats at the end of next year (Ferrari or Red Bull).

It is Jenson who wants the one year deal!


Jenson has previously stated that he would like to finish his career at McLaren. I think one of the stumbling blocks will be the number of PR events both he and Lewis are doing.


I suppose that Jenson is just trying to optimise his negotiating position, but I also can’t see why he would want to leave McLaren (particularly with all those uncompetitive years at BAR/Honda behind him).


absolutely correct


Jenson’s fan base seems to be hugely loyal and truly massive, it was plain to see at Goodwood this year when they sold out of Jenson caps and t-shirts, but there were still piles of Lewis gear.


Possibly, but you also have to account for the fact that Goodwood will appeal to a specific demographic.

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