McLaren says it is delighted to welcome newly-crowned world champion Jenson Button to their team for 2010, as he joins 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up. Button had only recently been linked with a McLaren move, but after failing to have his salary demands met by current employer Brawn, he immediately jumped ship to join the Woking-based outfit.
Speaking following the announcement, team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the team was delighted to welcome Jenson aboard. “Everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Jenson to our team,” he began.
“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 1.”
McLaren’s last high-profile driver pairing of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007 ended in disaster, with Alonso leaving the team at the end of the season. This time around, Whitmarsh says McLaren will be able to keep the drivers happy.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to successfully balance and harness Jenson’s and Lewis’s complementary skill-sets. Our engineers are already looking forward to working with Jenson, and I’m convinced that such a strong and dynamic driver line-up will make us an even more complete and competitive operation. Now we have to provide Jenson and Lewis with race-winning machinery.”
But Whitmarsh also denied that Button was switching to McLaren to earn a better wage, having been refused his requested wage-increase at Brawn. Reports suggest Button will earn between £6m and £7m per season over the course of his three-year deal, while Brawn were supposedly offering just £4m for the champion’s services.
“I want to make clear that Jenson’s decision to join us was in no way motivated by money,” insisted 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.”
Whitmarsh also paid tribute to Finland’s Heikki Kovalainen who leaves the team after two years partnering Hamilton. He will be missed by the team, Whitmarsh said.
“I also 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,” admitted Whitmarsh. “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.”
“We’re ambitious, we’re motivated and we’re hungrier than ever. We make no secret of our ambition for next year: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes wants to win both World Championships – and, with Jenson and Lewis, we believe we’re better equipped than any other team in the pitlane to do exactly that.”
McLaren’s new driver line-up is the first in history to feature the two most recent world champions, and is the first time since 1968 to feature two British world champions. Even with a combined total of two championships and 18 wins, they are still statistically weaker than Ferrari’s line-up of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.