Jenson Button in Mix for McLaren Seat

Negative CamberCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  New Formula One World Champion Jenson Button of Great Britain and Brawn GP prepares to take competition winners for a drive following a Virgin Media's SpeedWeek50 photocall at Bluewater Shopping Centre on October 20, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Silly Season just stepped up another notch.

The BBC is reporting that with negotiations slow to get started between new world drivers champ Jenson Button and his current team, new world constructors winner Brawn GP, McLaren has entered the picture as a possible 2010 home for Button.

It doesn’t take too long to add all the numbers up, does it? Last two world champs. Two Brits on the same team.

Is it just too much, though?

The BBC says the news first hit the streets of the UK on Friday morning, in two unnamed papers, but “it is understood there is substance in the story.”

The main sticking point between Brawn and Button is, not surprisingly, money. According to the BBC, Button took a massive salary cut from 10 million pounds to 3 million this season; that’s a couple more than I’ve seen before.

Now he understandably wants to earn some of that lost cash back.

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The BBC story has some other good points that suggest it all is part of the negotiations game, but clearly there is something substantial to it. [After all, if you're McLaren, and you could get this year's world champ, wouldn't you think about it.]

And the lead is priceless:

New world champion Jenson Button has emerged as a contender to join Lewis Hamilton in what would be a mouth-watering line-up at McLaren in 2010.
The Englishman has yet to sign a new contract for Brawn and McLaren are interested having so far failed to secure first choice Kimi Raikkonen.

“We’ve talked to a number of drivers,” said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
“It wouldn’t be appropriate to say more than that. We’ll hire the two best drivers available as we always have.”

Button’s manager Richard Goddard refused to comment on whether he had held talks with McLaren, but told BBC Sport: “Brawn could have sorted Jenson out weeks ago and none of this would be going on.

“We’ve been trying to agree terms with them. He’s made it clear he wants to stay and had they agreed a contract there would be no speculation.
“The press will speculate that anyone with a free seat next year will be offering Jenson a drive—he has displayed his great talent in a good car this year.

“That speculation won’t die until Brawn offer him new terms.

“A lot of quality seats may still be available so it’s down to Brawn to make us an offer. But this stuff certainly did not stem from us.”

Raikkonen, who is also being chased by Toyota after being forced to leave Ferrari to make way for Fernando Alonso, has not yet decided on his future and McLaren are exploring other possibilities.

Their back-up plan if Raikkonen turned them down was to retain his fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen, despite their reservations about his performances in races.

But following Button’s failure so far to agree terms on a new contract with Brawn, they are now understood to be interested in him – which would put the two most recent world champions, and two Britons, in one highly marketable lineup.

The Button-McLaren link first emerged in two national newspapers on Friday but it is understood there is substance in the story.

Button said on Tuesday that he wanted to stay with Brawn but that the team had yet to start substantive negotiations on a new deal.

Sources in F1 say the two parties have so far failed to agree on Button’s salary.

He took a pay cut from £10m to £3m over the winter to help secure the survival of Brawn, which emerged from the ashes of the Honda team after the Japanese company decided to quit F1 last December.

But now he is world champion he is said to be looking for a pay rise more
substantial than the one Brawn are offering.

McLaren, one of the better funded teams on the grid, would be able to pay more money than Brawn.

Button may also consider that McLaren are likely to have a faster car than Brawn in 2010, having already overtaken them for pace this year despite a poor start to the season.

But Button might be wary of teaming up with Hamilton, who is widely regarded as the out-and-out fastest driver on the grid.

Cynics will claim that the Button-McLaren link could have been leaked for one of two reasons.

It could be either a means for Button to get Brawn to up their offer to him, or it could be a way of McLaren trying to persuade Raikkonen to make up his mind.

In the background, there is also the fact that McLaren’s long-term engine partner Mercedes is considering buying a large stake in the Brawn team, a move that is not popular in some parts of McLaren.

The obvious questions include whether Button and Hamilton could co-exist on one team; Button did just handle close competition with teammate Rubens Barrichello, keep in mind, so perhaps there is reason to think he could peacefully exist at McLaren.

Is this a dream line-up, though? I have to think that Button watched as Hamilton performed better and better throughout the year.


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