According to the Guardian, Button ‘has agreed terms to join McLaren on a £6m-a-year deal and could sign his formal three-year contract to partner Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up within the next few days.
‘The Guardian understands that the World Champion has turned his back on Brawn following protracted negotiations and will almost double his salary with the Woking-based team. ‘
‘For Button the prospect of going head-to-head with a close friend and the man regarded by many in the pit lane as possibly the fastest of all will just be part of the challenge of defending his title.’
And although current McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton has said he would welcome Button, the newspaper was quick to point out that McLaren would not have given the 2008 Champ a say in the matter.
‘It is unlikely either Hamilton, who earns about £12m a year at McLaren, or his father Anthony, who has managed the 2008 World Champion since his days as a teenage kart racer, will have been consulted on this beyond the normal deployment of good manners,’ claimed the report.
‘McLaren have always had the resources and philosophy required to field two fully competitive cars and have always sought the strongest possible driver line-ups they could engage.’
Button’s reported signing comes just hours after Mercedes let go of their 40 percent stake in McLaren in favour of a take-over at Brawn GP, prompting speculation that the team would take on an all-German line-up, leaving Button out in the cold.
However, Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug was quick to downplay the rumours.
“I read some speculation and I understand this because we could not give this information earlier. But this will be an international team for Mercedes-Benz is a global player,” he said.
“We want to have the best ones and we definitely do not want to have the pure German team – it’s an international Silver Arrows team and we want to have the best drivers in the car.”
Haug’s comments were followed by Mercedes GP chief executive Nick Fry stating that the team is still keen to hold onto Button, although not at any price.
“I hope Jenson is still with us next season,” Fry told the BBC. “We’ve been together for a good few years now and we have succeeded in winning the World Championship together and we want Jenson to be with us.”
But despite the statements by both Haug and Fry, the Daily Mail claims that ‘an exasperated source close to Button dismissed the comments as ‘lip service.’
The newspaper also says that ‘Button is expected to sign for McLaren before the end of the week rather than risk ending up without a team after Mercedes’ buy-out of Brawn yesterday pushed him closer to the exit door.’