Mercedes hope to keep hold of Button

Brawn GP change name as German manufacturer makes major investment

Mercedes want to keep world champion Jenson Button as one of their drivers after taking over the Brawn GP team. The German manufacturer insisted yesterday that contrary to speculation, the Oxfordshire-based team will remain "international" in make-up. Whether they will retain Button's services, however, depends on the Englishman being prepared to accept considerably less than the annual salary of £7m he is currently demanding.

Having been paid around £3.5m last season, Button believes his wages should be increased to around twice that amount, but Brawn GP chief executive Nick Fry made it clear the takeover did not mean the team could now afford to meet his demands. "I hope Jenson will be with us next season, we succeeded together last season and we want him to be here, but we have to recognise F1 is not divorced from the rest of the [economic] world," Fry said. "We succeeded by competing within our means and we'll continue to do the same."

Having bought a majority shareholding in Brawn's team, Mercedes had been thought to be keen to field two German drivers next season, with Nick Heidfeld, formerly with BMW, the favourite to join Nico Rosberg. But a Mercedes spokesman said the company wanted to be seen as an international team. "Mercedes is a global brand, we sell cars all over the world, and the important thing for us to have the best driver line-up," the source said. "One German driver would be good, but even that isn't a prerequisite."

Initially, the takeover seemed certain to result in Button joining Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. Talks between Button and Brawn about renewing his contract had stalled, with basic salary the sticking point. At the start of last season, when Honda's late withdrawal left the team in danger of going under, Button agreed a reduction from £8m. Brawn is believed to have offered £4m, but with the freedom to sign personal sponsorship deals – that would not be available at McLaren, which would pay a higher basic wage, but where team sponsors always take priority.

Last Friday Button and his manager, Richard Goddard, toured McLaren's headquarters and made sure everyone, including Brawn, knew about it. But Button is aware he would find it hard to step into a team used to working with Hamilton and be immediately competitive.

Button must also know that while principal sponsor Vodafone may be keen on an all British line-up, there remains an influential body of opinion at McLaren that doubts his ability, and would prefer to have Kimi Raikkonen back alongside Hamilton.

There has even been a suggestion that McLaren held talks with Button as a warning to Hamilton's father and manager, Anthony, not to try to renegotiate his son's existing £50m contract, which still has three years to run. Ross Brawn, however, has no such doubts, and has always remained optimistic Button would stay.

Button is not in a particularly strong position. Financially Formula One has been hit as hard, if not harder, than many sports; it is unlikely, for example, Goddard could secure his client a series of personal endorsements remotely similar to the £10m deal Hamilton agreed with Reebok after becoming world champion last year.

Moreover, the withdrawal of BMW and Toyota means several good drivers are available, including Heidfeld and another promising young German, Timo Glock.

Only Ferrari appear unaffected by recession; the Italian team will pay Fernando Alonso £19m to drive for them alongside Felipe Massa next season, and are also paying Raikkonen around £13m to do nothing, although that drops to a mere £9m if the Finn signs up for another team.

Q&A: Why has Ross Brawn sold to Mercedes? And what will the new deal mean on the track?

* Why have Brawn GP, having won the drivers' and constructors' world championships in their first and it seems only season, taken Mercedes' marks?

Aside from lifting any personal financial pressure, it means the team can continue to compete.

The fact is they were both brilliant and lucky last season, designing a part – the infamous double diffuser – which gave them a huge advantage in the early races, but which many teams believed was illegal.

By the time the FIA decided it wasn't, they were too far ahead to be caught. Next season they might have struggled against teams with much bigger budgets, but this deal should give them enough financial firepower to be competitive. And you mean euros.

*So Button would be well advised to stay put, right?

Right, according to most experts. McLaren finished last season strongly, and if they really want him they can pay more, but that's a big "if". Button has earned more than £30m from Formula One in salary, and maintains it's no longer about money. And besides, Hamilton might give him a metaphorical shoeing.

*There isn't a chance he might end up without a drive at all, is there?

A very small one, and only if he overplays his hand.

*What's the likeliest outcome?

Button and Rosberg at Mercedes, Hamilton and Raikkonen at McLaren. But you never know until the contracts are signed.

*Does any of this mean the racing will be any better?

No. F1 remains more interesting for what goes on off the track. The only races worth watching will still be at Silverstone, Spa, Monza, and Sao Paulo. And Monaco for the scenery.

*Silverstone? Is it on, then?

If somebody can find the multi-billionaire Bernie Ecclestone another million or two. Heaven knows, he needs the money.

Richard Rae

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions