Button to race for McLaren in 2010 18 Nov 2009
McLaren have announced the signing of reigning world champion Jenson Button on a multi-year deal that will see him partner 2008 title holder Lewis Hamilton next season. It marks the first pairing of two British world champions since Graham Hill and Jim Clark at Lotus in 1968.
The news follows weeks of speculation surrounding Buttons future with 2009 team Brawn GP, whose 2010 driver line-up remains unconfirmed following their takeover by McLaren engine suppliers Mercedes earlier this week.
Its always a difficult decision to leave a team when youve been there for so long, but life is all about challenges - and, most important of all, its about challenging yourself, said Button, who'd been with his previous team in its various forms since 2003.
So, although I won the world championship with Brawn GP last year, and Ill never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges. So thats why Ive decided to join Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
Commenting on Buttons signing, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: 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 One.
Despite reports suggesting that pay had been a major stumbling block in Buttons negotiations with Brawn, Whitmarsh insisted his move to McLaren hinged purely on his desire to remain in a race-winning car, having scored six victories this season.
I want to make clear that Jensons decision to join us was in no way motivated by money, he said. Well be paying him no more than he could be getting elsewhere, and that fact is a reflection of not only Jensons belief in Vodafone McLaren Mercedes but also his desire and ambition to build on the phenomenal results he achieved during the 2009 season.
For Hamilton, 2010 will mark his fourth season with McLaren, with Button becoming his third new team mate in that time.
I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together, he said. We both really want our team to succeed. Although well be pushing each other hard, Im sure well very quickly establish a great working relationship. Hes an exceptional driver: very controlled and very smooth, and he has a real depth of knowledge and experience.
I think well complement each other very well, and our collaboration will make the team stronger as a result. Also, Im 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.
For his part, Button added that he was delighted to be joining such an iconic team.
You cant help but be affected by this teams phenomenal history, he said. McLaren is one of the greats of world sport, and its achievements and list of past champions read like a Whos Who of Formula One - Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and of course my new team mate Lewis Hamilton. Ive followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it.
Its 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 hes a wonderfully gifted driver who has earned the respect of every Formula One driver. Im sure theres plenty that we can learn from each other, and Im really looking forward to using our combined knowledge to push the team forward.
The news marks the end of Heikki Kovalainens McLaren race career after two seasons as Hamiltons team mate. The Finn, who finished 12th in the 2009 drivers table, seven places behind Hamilton, must now look elsewhere for a 2010 seat.
I want to thank Heikki for his selfless contribution over the past two years, said Whitmarsh. As well as being very quick, Heikki was and remains a great character whom well all miss considerably. It goes without saying that we wish him all the best, and would be very pleased if he were to secure a good drive for 2010.