Will Jenson Button form a long-term successful partnership with Brawn GP? Or will he be looking for a new team to drive for in 2010?
The minds of the F1 fan community have been focused on this issue courtesy of some quotes from Nick Fry, who has reminded us that Button’s mind may well be on the size of his remuneration package after he chose to take a very sizeable pay cut to drive for Brawn GP this year.
Has he already signed on the dotted line to stay with the team in 2010? Or is the 29-year-old best advised to maximise his earning potential while he’s a hot property by negotiating a long-term contract with one of the more routinely high-performing teams?
Well, actually, it does appear that he’s in the first year of a three-year deal with Brawn GP, although we all know that F1 contracts (and particularly those belonging to Jenson Button) aren’t always worth the paper they are printed on.
Nick Fry, Brawn’s CEO, is unsurprisingly quite keen on getting him to stay. He recently told Autosport: â€œHe took voluntarily a major reduction but he does have a contract for several years to come and we will be discussing at some stage later this year what we do to make sure he is rewarded fairly.
â€œBut it is not something we are discussing at the moment. These contracts are quite complicated but it is not something that is vexing us at the moment. He has done a great job and later in the year he will win more races and have a discussion.â€
Back in February Kevin Eason, writing in The Times, stated that Button had signed a three-year deal with Brawn: â€œIt became clear yesterday that he was willing to give up at least £15million over the next three years simply to get the opportunity to drive a car put on the grid by Ross Brawn, regarded as Formula One’s finest technical director.â€
However it is pretty clear that a potential World Champion isn’t necessarily going to be all that interested in paying his own air fares and limiting his earning potential at the most crucial moment of his career.
And it is certain that demand for Button’s services could stretch beyond Brawn GP, especially if the driver market is shaken up by an influx of new teams – and maybe even the departure of an established name or two, thus depriving a few veterans and youngsters of their drives.
Ferrari would seem to have an abundance of riches right now with Raikkonen and Massa on the books and Alonso waiting in the wings.
You could take the view that McLaren’s relationship with Lewis Hamilton has taken a severe dent this season, and Heikki Kovalainen is not performing well enough, leading them to need to seek out some new talent.
But it is questionable whether any team wants two drivers of the same nationality, and currently underperforming McLaren has not always proved an easy destination for drivers in the past – just ask David Coulthard, Juan-Pablo Montoya or Fernando Alonso.
And, with BMW Sauber nosediving and Toyota wavering, we can’t think of any other outfit that would look remotely appealing, save possibly Red Bull – another team blessed with an excess of driver talent.
Button’s had a tenuous relationship with Flavio Briatore’s Renault for years – ever since being evicted in favour of Alonso in 2003. If the Brit is to be believed, Briatore had a crack at bringing him back over the winter when Alonso’s loyalty was wavering.
But would you drive for a man who had already sacked you once, and who has publicly described you as a bollard?
No, as far as we can see, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever for Jense to break up his winning partnership with Ross Brawn – as long as that team gets its finances sorted. And we reckon it will.
And Fry is determined, quoted by James Allen as saying: â€œJenson’s been with us a long time, and we’ve had failures and we’ve had successes. My objective, and our objective, is to have him for the rest of his career, and nothing’s changed on that front.
â€œIt’s mutual that he would like to stay with the team, and after five race wins, we should be able to get something together.
â€œI’m sure he and his manager are sitting there thinking his price is going up the whole time. But maybe the sponsorship for the team is going up too, so maybe we can afford it.â€
It’s no secret that one of the reasons Button’s career has taken a decade to launch into orbit is the terrible mess he’s got himself into with contract negotiations in the past, leading to legal fights with Williams and BAR, and reportedly large compensation payments to the loser.
Let’s hope he’s learned his lesson – and that the transition to 2010 and a decent drive is a smooth one for the man we hope will be the reigning World Champion.
One beacon of certainty in the confusion surrounding the 2010 grid is that things will be mighty unpredictable. In Jense’s shoes, wouldn’t you want to hitch your wagon to a team with a proven track record of dealing with just that?