Jenson Button’s decision to join McLaren reportedly came when Brawn GP took an offer of £12million off the table after he breached his contract.
On Wednesday, McLaren announced that Button would be joining them next season having signed a three-year contract worth £6m per year. The move will see him team up with Lewis Hamilton in a formidable partnership of British talent.
However, Button could have earned double that if the World Champion hadn’t angered his Brawn GP team bosses by visiting McLaren’s Woking headquarters last Friday evening.
On Saturday, newspapers – along with some fine F1 websites – in the UK carried news of Button’s visit to Woking, which an unnamed McLaren source said was just a ‘hello’ while another claimed that the Brit had been in talks with team boss Martin Whitmarsh well into the night.
And it appears Brawn GP’s bosses weren’t at all happy with Button’s McLaren visit.
According to the Daily Express ‘Button’s relationship with Brawn broke down so badly that they removed an offer that could have been worth £12million next year before he signed for McLaren.
‘Just a month after being lifted to the heights of World Champion by his team, Button was left in no doubt that he had let them down in a phone call with team principal Ross Brawn at the weekend.
‘That came after a breach of contract when Button was shown around the McLaren factory, a move which shocked Brawn, who thought he was still in the middle of negotiations with Button.’
The phone call with Brawn resulted in both parties feeling wronged and the offer of an £8m per year salary plus up to £4m in points bonuses being taken off the table.
Two days later McLaren announced they had bagged the reigning World Champ for just £6m a year.
“I was very disappointed at the way things finished up with Jenson,” said Brawn, who earlier this week sold 75.1 percent of his Formula One team to Mercedes.
Nick Fry, the team’s chief executive, backed up the newspaper’s claims by revealing that money was not the issue behind Button leaving.
Either way there seems to have been a breakdown in relations and The Times understands that neither Button nor his advisers have been taking calls from Mercedes’s management for over a week.
“I don’t think that it was a financial issue,” Fry told Autosport. “We understand that our offer to Jenson may well have been in excess of what he might be getting with McLaren.
“We are disappointed that Jenson has decided to leave because we did make what we thought was a very generous offer for a new contract which was significantly in excess of the frankly spurious figures that were put out to the press over the past week or so.
“It was clear to us that things were going seriously astray as of Sunday night or Monday morning.
“Unfortunately, over the last week there has been very little dialogue with Jenson’s management team despite the fact that we have made overtures to have further discussions. But they didn’t seem particularly keen, presumably because they were set on the McLaren route.”
Fry added that he doesn’t understand why Button chose to leave when it means he will have Lewis Hamilton, arguably one of the best drivers in Formula One, as his team-mate.
“I respect his decision,” said Fry. “It’s not one that I would have made and maybe he has been poorly advised.
“Clearly, loyalty would be nice but in this day and age you don’t expect too much of that. I’m always happy when any employee leaves our company if I think that they’ve made the right decision and they are going to a better job and they always go with our blessing if that is the situation.
“In this situation, we don’t understand the logic of the decision and I think Jenson is going to have to up his game if he’s going to beat Lewis on home territory.”