The Raikobutton saga...we make the call UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's McLaren announcement.
11/18/09 UPDATE #4 Jenson Button will reportedly be unveiled as a McLaren driver within the next forty-eight hours - and possibly as early as later today. The World Champion has signed a £6million a year deal with the Woking team, according to reports in The Daily Mail.
The newspaper says that Button has agreed a salary paying less than half that of his new teammate Lewis Hamilton after Mercedes made it clear that he was not wanted at Brawn GP following the manufacturer's takeover of the team, with the new owners believed to want an all-German driving team for 2010.
This comes despite Mercedes honcho Norbert Haug insisting on Tuesday that: "We want to have the best ones and we definitely do not want to have the pure German team." The Mail has dismissed Haug's remarks as 'lip service'.
While neither McLaren nor Button have commented on the story, it follows fevered speculation that the World Champion is set to leave Brawn just a month after winning the title with them.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that Button had agreed to a three-year, six million a year deal with Woking-based team. 11/17/09 It looks like AR1 made the call on this one a week ago, with persistent and reliable rumors that Button has signed a deal with McLaren. Now we have this rumor of Kimi's manager stating that he will not be racing this year.
Kimi Raikkonen will not be in Formula 1 in 2010. Steve Robertson, one of his management, told the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat on Tuesday that negotiations for a drive with McLaren were over.
Raikkonen may try to come back again in 2011 when there will be other drives available, possibly at Red Bull Racing. Robertson told the newspaper that Raikkonen will do some rallying next year and may race in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The news could be interpreted as confirmation that Jenson Button has a deal with McLaren, but it is hard to imagine that Brawn would be happy with Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg, neither of whom has won a race. It still makes so much more sense for Button to stay at Brawn and Heidfeld join Hamilton at McLaren.
Mercedes has just splashed out to buy a top Formula 1 team and it is hard to imagine that it will allow the World Champion to walk away over a few million dollars. In part from Grandprix.com
11/14/09 (GMM) McLaren has confirmed AutoRacing1.com's reports revealing that Jenson Button visited the Woking based team's headquarters on Friday.
The 2009 world champion-elect had just touched down in Heathrow after a post-season holiday in Japan when he made "a small detour to Woking to say hello", a McLaren spokesman said.
The Guardian newspaper said his manager Richard Goddard was also given a tour of the factory by team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
Briton Button, 29, is considering lining up alongside 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton next year, with his current employer Brawn not willing to substantially increase his retainer.
Goddard was quoted by the Telegraph newspaper as scoffing at Ross Brawn's proposal that Button be given more freedom to negotiate personal sponsorships rather than more money.
"Jenson has always controlled his own image rights," he said, adding that the current situation - with Brawn not playing ball despite rumors of big sponsors for 2010 and a takeover by Mercedes - is "worrying".
"If Brawn are going to sell the team, and there is going to be a big influx of money, then why shouldn't Jenson be making some of that?" he said.
"Ultimately, Jenson is a very loyal guy but at some point it stops being about the money. Let's face it, everyone likes to feel wanted," said Goddard.
Earlier this week, Kimi Raikkonen also visited McLaren, as the team looks to replace Hamilton's current teammate Heikki Kovalainen.
Meanwhile, Ferrari confirmed reports that Fernando Alonso will appear at Ferrari's 'Finale Mondiali' event at Valencia on Sunday.
"I wish to thank Renault for making it possible for Fernando to be in Valencia; a generous gesture which is much appreciated," said team boss Stefano Domenicali, referring to the fact that the Spaniard remains under contract to his 2009 team.11/13/09 Looks like AR1.com may have hit this nail squarely on the head. Our sources say Button is at McLaren today for a seat fitting. zzzz
11/12/09 Several rumors filtering through our office today are talking about the Raikkonen-Button situation. Will Jensen accept Brawn's "interesting" and unconventional offer to pay Button a modest base salary, but give him wide berth to secure his own endorsements? We doubt it.
Will Dennis (err...uhm...I mean Whitmarsh) give in to Kimi's high salary demands that are especially optimistic considering his motivation is in question, and he is getting paid not to drive for Ferrari anyway?
We say that McLaren will give Jensen just what he wants, which is a fraction of what Kimi wants. Also, why would Jensen take a deal that makes him have to work harder, outside the cockpit? He can get paid the whole deal at McLaren and can concentrate on driving more than business, and he even stays with the same powerplant and a team that has won a lot more championships.
As for Kimi, it appears to us that he really isn't all that interested in driving unless he knows he has a car that can win. He doesn't seem to be interested in working toward that goal. If he is going to drive at all, he wants to get in the car and run, or he would rather be in a strip club doing body-shots. Hey...who can blame him?
It seems to us that Kimi is just looking for paycheck, and if he is going to get paid he might as well win races. If he can't get that, then he will go rallying. How much do you think he will get paid to go rally racing? Not much we imagine.
So we are going to make the call right now and see how our hunch pans out.
Jensen Button to McLaren.
Kimi goes rallying (hopefully not on his roof again!) and strip-bar hopping.