Jenson Button teams up with Lewis Hamilton
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- FIA Formula One World Championship
Jenson Button has signed a multi-year deal to race with McLaren, which will see him paired against fellow world champion Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up.
The news comes after months of speculation as to where the 2009 world champion would race next year. Button's visit to the McLaren factory at the weekend was the first major indication that he may be leaving Brawn, which was bought out by Mercedes this week.
Kimi Raikkonen had previously been the favourite to move to McLaren but the deal hit salary and PR disagreements during contract talks. Button also appeared to be unable to reach an agreement over a pay rise with Brawn GP, having taken a cut at the start of 2009 to help the team's finances. Yet Button insisted his decision to then move to McLaren was entirely a personal one, based on a long-held desire to race for the team.
"It's always a difficult decision to leave a team when you've been there for so long," he said. "But life is all about challenges - and, most important of all, it's about challenging yourself. I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges, so that's why I've decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. I've followed the team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it."
McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh confirmed Button wasn't earning any more money than he would have driving anywhere else, saying that his team had achieved its target of getting the best driver pairing possible.
"I'm confident that we'll be able to successfully balance and harness Jenson's and Lewis's complementary skill-sets," Whitmarsh said. "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."
Button added he was unfazed about joining a team based largely around Hamilton and said he was looking forward to driving with his compatriot next year. "From a personal point of view, it's also a great pleasure to be joining a fellow British world champion," he said. "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 One 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."
Hamilton reiterated Button's comments, saying he too was looking forward to racing with a fellow Brit. "I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together," he said. "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 McLaren the best team on the grid."