McLaren line up Button bid

World champion could form British dream team alongside Lewis Hamilton
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The Independent Online

Brawn GP will have to act fast to keep their newly crowned world champion for 2010 after McLaren stepped in yesterday with a view to signing him as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate.

Button took an 80 per cent pay cut to stay with Brawn for 2009, and is looking for about £8m next year instead of his current £3m. Talks between Button and Brawn are deadlocked.

"It's as much about being with the team that he is confident will win the next world championship," Button's manager Richard Goddard said yesterday. "Jenson is very loyal and has strong links with Brawn, but he took that massive pay cut on the understanding that his money would go back up if we signed for a second season. He just needs to feel comfortable, and we are being very straightforward."

Goddard would not comment specifically on an approach from McLaren, but said: "They have an open seat, Toyota have an open seat, and so do Renault, but there are some others who've talked to us that might surprise people. He certainly wouldn't have any problem being team-mate to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren if the opportunity developed."

McLaren's team principal Martin Whitmarsh sought to downplay the possibility yesterday when he said: "As we've consistently said whenever we've been asked about our 2010 driver line-up, we haven't yet decided on it. We've talked to a number of drivers, but it wouldn't be appropriate to divulge details of our thinking. The reality is that we'll hire the two best drivers available to us – as we always have. We'll discount any other criteria, including nationality."

Button fits the bill perfectly from both the driving point of view and financially, however, and McLaren are chasing hard with the aim of creating a superteam of two British world champions which would have massive appeal to sponsor Vodafone.

The British Grand Prix became further imperilled yesterday when the company behind the race's planned 17-year switch to Donington Park admitted that efforts to raise a £135m bond have failed.

A statement said: "Donington Ventures Leisure Limited can confirm that a bond for £135m to cover the cost of the F1 redevelopment at Donington Park has been unsuccessful. The bond – which was launched with Citi Group last week – has failed to secure enough subscription." Bernie Ecclestone is having further talks with Silverstone.

An era of motorsport ended yesterday when Max Mosley was succeeded as president of the FIA by former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt. The 63 year-old Frenchman comfortably won the election with 135 votes to rival Ari Vatanen's 49.

Despite misgivings about Todt, the Formula One Teams' Association (Fota) chairman Luca di Montezemolo, who worked with him at Ferrari, said: "I am sure that, under his guidance, the Federation will be rejuvenated and will restore a climate open to dialogue and constructive collaboration with the teams and Fota, thus ensuring stability."