Button's move to McLaren has been long rumored, fueled recently by a visit by the World Champion together with his managers to the team's headquarters in Woking. Negotiations had been ongoing with the Brawn team with which he won his championship this year and which he'll now be departing, but even with Mercedes' injection of cash, the small team apparently couldn't afford the rate which the newly crowned champ was commanding on the open market.
The announcement will undoubtedly be greeted enthusiastically by British racing fans, placing two British drivers behind the wheel of an entirely British team – and the first pairing of two British World Champions since 1968 when Graham Hill and Jim Clark drove for Lotus. Less so for the newly-christened Mercedes Grand Prix team, which is losing both the drivers that brought Brawn GP the championship.
The move also leaves Heikki Kovalainen without a ride and further confirms fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen's lucrative sabbatical. But now that Button's future is settled and McLaren has confirmed its drivers, the rest of the grid should fall into place shortly, so stay tuned. Details in the press release after the jump.
[Source: McLaren | Image: Paul Gilham/Getty]
VODAFONE McLAREN MERCEDES SIGNS REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION JENSON BUTTON TO MULTI-YEAR DEAL
Sensational double World Champion driver line-up created as Jenson Button joins Lewis Hamilton at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Woking, 18 November 2009: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is delighted to announce the signing of the reigning World Champion Jenson Button to a multi-year deal. He will be partnered by 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who will be embarking on his fourth consecutive season as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver.
This unique partnership will mark:
- The first time in Formula 1 history that a team has started the new season with a line-up featuring the most recent two successive World Champions
- The first pairing of two British World Champions since Graham Hill [1962, 1968] partnered Jim Clark [1963, 1965] at Lotus in 1968
2009 Formula 1 World Champion
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car #1
"It's always a difficult decision to leave a team when you've been there for so long. But life is all about challenges – and, most important of all, it's about challenging yourself. So, although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I'll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges.
"So that's why I've decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. You can't help but be affected by this team's phenomenal history. McLaren is one of the greats of world sport, and its achievements and list of past champions read like a Who's Who of Formula 1 – Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and of course my new team-mate Lewis Hamilton. I've followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it.
"When I visited the McLaren Technology Centre earlier this month, it wasn't simply the technical resources and the incredible standards of excellence that impressed me. No, I was equally struck by the ambition, the motivation and the winning spirit that flow through everybody there. And then there's the team's epic history: put it this way, the trophy cabinets seem to stretch for miles.
"From a personal point of view, it's also a great pleasure to be joining a fellow British World Champion. Lewis has achieved an incredible level of success in a very short period of time, and he's a wonderfully gifted driver who has earned the respect of every Formula 1 driver. I'm sure there's plenty that we can learn from each other, and I'm really looking forward to using our combined knowledge to push the team forward.
"Also, I think it's fantastic that we'll be forming an all-British line-up. I know that we both fly the flag with pride, and I sincerely hope we can make the whole of the United Kingdom, as well as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes fans across the world, proud. Nothing means more to me than to be able to represent my country, and I'm looking forward to both of us painting Formula 1's circuits red, white and blue for many years to come.
"While I'm fully aware that there's a tremendous amount of hard work ahead, I'm absolutely certain that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be able to deliver where it matters: on track. I'm already looking forward to starting work with the engineers at the McLaren Technology Centre as we begin our preparations for the 2010 season – and the defence of my world championship. This is a team that always goes racing to win, and I'm looking forward to being part of that.
"Last but very far from least, I want to say that the 2009 season will always have a special place in my memory, and I'm absolutely sure that everybody at Brawn GP who worked so hard to achieve our World Championship successes feels exactly the same way about it. Equally, I want to thank the guys at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, without whom we'd never have been as competitive as we were. I'm so pleased that I'll still be using their engines in 2010 and beyond.
"So I wish all my old Brawn GP mates well in their new Mercedes Grand Prix adventure, just as I hope they'll wish me well in my new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes adventure."
2008 Formula 1 World Champion
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car #2
"It's fantastic news that Jenson has decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes – and I'm looking forward to working with him and our engineers to make sure we kick off the 2010 season with a car that's competitive enough to win the World Championship – but I want to send my best wishes for the future to my 2008-09 team-mate and now good friend Heikki Kovalainen, who is one of the nicest human beings I've ever met.
"I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together. We both really want our team to succeed. Although we'll be pushing each other hard, I'm sure we'll very quickly establish a great working relationship. He's an exceptional driver: very controlled and very smooth, and he has a real depth of knowledge and experience. I think we'll complement each other very well, and our collaboration will make the team stronger as a result. Also, I'm delighted to be racing alongside a fellow British World Champion, and I believe we can pull together to make Vodafone McLaren Mercedes the best team on the grid.
"I'm sure Jenson has already started to appreciate our team's unique culture and the special family atmosphere that makes it such an incredible place to live and work. We really are like one big family – and I'm sure Jenson will feel the warmth of that welcome from day one.
"Obviously, as a British driver, I'm also thrilled that we'll be flying the flag for the United Kingdom, and I think today's announcement is fantastic news for all British sports fans. I hope they'll be giving us their full support when the season kicks off next March. I'm already looking forward to Silverstone – it'll be massive!
"Looking ahead, I think the results from the second half of 2009 speak for themselves, and I'm convinced we can carry that momentum through the winter and into the new season. I've been closely following the development of our 2010 challenger, the MP4-25, and I think it's going to be a state-of-the-art car that will enable both of us to consistently fight for victories."
Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"Everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is absolutely delighted to be able to welcome Jenson to our team. 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.
"Moreover, 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.
"I want to make clear that Jenson's decision to join us was in no way motivated by money. 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.
"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. 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."
Jenson Button (GBR)
Date of birth: 19 January 1980 (29)
World championships: 1 (2009)
Pole positions: 7
GP starts: 170
Lewis Hamilton (GBR)
Date of birth: 7 January 1985 (24)
World championships: 1 (2008)
Pole positions: 17
GP starts: 52