The world’s Formula 1 press is reporting this morning that World Champion Jenson Button has done the deed and left Brawn GP for a “several year” deal at Mclaren. Button says he did it for the challenge, but one can’t help but think money played a role. It’s been reported for weeks now that he and Brawn have been wrangling over his paycheck for 2010. After the buyout of the Honda team by Brawn and Nick Fry, Jenson took a voluntary pay cut from his $8 million Honda salary to some $3 million to help keep the unsponsored team alive. Pretty nice of him, don’t you think? After winning the World Drivers Championship, Button (rightly, methinks) reckoned he should be worth his old salary again, but Brawn reportedly doesn’t want to pay him that much, and would rather make the deal at a lesser sum. Why? That’s nowhere near what other World Champions at other teams are and have been making, even during the current economic downturn. Hell, even Ralf Schumacher made $10 million at Toyota, and what of note did he ever do for them? Other reports have Brawn saying that it has indeed offered Button the 8 mil he asked for, but that he wants more. Which is it? For now, I guess only Brawn, Fry, and Button know for sure. Whatever the reality, the new Mercedes team will not be carrying the number 1 on its lead car next year.
So Jenson’s gone off to McLaren, which is well known for not being afraid to field two top drivers simultaneously. Lewis and Jenson are good friends and both Brits, but what will result from their merger – another Prost/Senna, Hamilton/Alonso debacle or a superteam that can’t be beaten? 2010 is looking more and more interesting every day.
Also in the news is confirmation that Kimi Räikkönen has decided to take a hike from Formula 1 for the time being, perhaps to return in 2011. Reports are that if he simply takes his early retirement golden parachute from Ferrari, he’ll walk away with something like $25 million, but if he switches to another F1 team for 2010 that payout will be reduced by some $10 million. So, if he can’t find a team that wants to pay him at least $10 million to drive next year, he’s better off financially to simply take the money and run…perhaps straight to the WRC. That’s reasoning I can understand, but what makes him think he’s going to be any more valuable to Formula 1 after skipping a year and becoming unfamiliar with cars designed under the new rules for 2010? Hmmm, Kimi, you might want to rethink that one or plan on being a rally driver for the long-term.
One of the more interesting sidebars out there mentions the “tantalizing possibility” that Michael Schumacher may re-emerge alongside Nico Rosberg at the newly re-badged Mercedes Grand Prix team formerly known as Brawn. Some say that an all-German driver lineup is wanted to complete the silver arrows concept. But then, some say that Michael is the Stig. My, my – things really are getting interesting. Three, maybe four, new F1 teams and all these musical driver’s chairs being passed around? Kimi in World Rally? I can hardly wait for March.
What’s next, the return of national racing colors?