Button completes switch to McLaren

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The Independent Online

McLaren today announced the signing of reigning world champion Jenson Button on a "multi-year deal" that will see the Briton paired with Lewis Hamilton from the start of the 2010 season.

Button will line-up alongside Hamilton after parting company with reigning constructors champions Brawn GP, who were the subject of a takeover by Mercedes-Benz earlier this week.



"Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is delighted to announce the signing of the reigning World Champion Jenson Button to a multi-year deal," the McLaren team said in a statement.



"He will be partnered by 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who will be embarking on his fourth consecutive season as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver."

The deal marks the first time in Formula One history that a team has started the new season with a line-up featuring the most recent two successive world champions, and is the first pairing of two British world champions since Graham Hill partnered Jim Clark at Lotus in 1968.

Button, who has reportedly agreed a three-year deal worth £6million a season, moves to the Woking-based team after a hugely successful campaign with Brawn which delivered six grand prix wins and his maiden world title.



"It's always a difficult decision to leave a team when you've been there for so long," said Button. "But life is all about challenges - and, most important of all, it's about challenging yourself.



"So, although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I'll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges.



"So that's why I've decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. You can't help but be affected by this team's phenomenal history.



"McLaren is one of the greats of world sport, and its achievements and list of past champions read like a Who's Who of Formula One - Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and of course my new team-mate Lewis Hamilton.



"I've followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it."

Hamilton, who won the world title with McLaren in 2008 in only his second season in F1, welcomed the arrival of his fellow Englishman, and reserved special praise for the outgoing Heikki Kovalainen, his team-mate of the last two seasons who must now find a drive elsewhere.

He said: "It's fantastic news that Jenson has decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes - and I'm looking forward to working with him and our engineers to make sure we kick off the 2010 season with a car that's competitive enough to win the World Championship - but I want to send my best wishes for the future to my 2008-09 team-mate and now good friend Heikki Kovalainen, who is one of the nicest human beings I've ever met.



"I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together. We both really want our team to succeed.



"Although we'll be pushing each other hard, I'm sure we'll very quickly establish a great working relationship.



"He's an exceptional driver: very controlled and very smooth, and he has a real depth of knowledge and experience. I think we'll complement each other very well."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh revealed Button's move from Brawn was not motivated by personal gain, despite widespread reports that his former employers had failed to meet his salary demands.

"I want to make clear that Jenson's decision to join us was in no way motivated by money," said Whitmarsh.



"We'll be paying him no more than he could be getting elsewhere, and that fact is a reflection of not only Jenson's belief in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes but also his desire and ambition to build on the phenomenal results he achieved during the 2009 season."



He added: "Everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Jenson to our team.



"It has always been our policy to employ the two very best possible drivers - and, in Jenson and Lewis, we feel we not only have the fastest pairing on the 2010 grid, but also the two most complete, professional and dedicated drivers in Formula One.



"Moreover, I'm confident that we'll be able to successfully balance and harness Jenson's and Lewis's complementary skill-sets.



"Now we have to provide Jenson and Lewis with race-winning machinery."



Whitmarsh also praised Kovalainen for his role at the team over the past two seasons, saying: "I want to thank Heikki for his selfless contribution over the past two years.



"As well as being very quick, Heikki was and remains a great character whom we'll all miss considerably.



"It goes without saying that we wish him all the best for next season, and would be very pleased if he were to secure a good drive for 2010."

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