McLaren need Jenson Button

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Long suffering McLaren fans will be suffering right now form a sense of deja vu. Once again, the season is drawing to a close and once again the Woking F1 team’s driver line-up for next year  is uncertain.

Jenson Button must feel as though his brain is playing the famous song by The Clash – over and over – ‘Should I stay or should I go’, as once again speculation is rife about whether Ron Dennis wants to keep the British racing driver.

No matter how die hard a ‘Big Ron’ fan you are, Dennis hasn’t exactly covered himself with glory over the Jenson Button saga.

Following the announcement that Jenson would stay and Magnussen was to leave, Dennis commented to Sky: “The two-year contract was my idea, not Jenson’s. He didn’t ask for a two-year contract. We made a proposal, part of which was two years.”

Button was clearly on message as he added, “We have both agreed that more than one year is a must. This is a new project and an exciting project. To be part of the legendary partnership between McLaren and Honda is not a one-year thing. I’m looking forward to more than one year.

Of course Button is no fool, and realised there were clauses and options in his contract that meant only one year was guaranteed.

However, the McLaren message was clear – this project a long term one, there will be bumps in the road, but we want Jenson for more than a year.

Dennis again in June stated on Sky F1, “Jenson Button has a two-year contract with McLaren, we are not even thinking about drivers at the moment.”

So why we are here on the merry go round once again?

Has Jenson been doing a Crashtor? Has Alonso been handing him his ass on a silver salver?

Not at all.

In qualifying Jenson has in fact a better record than Fernando. His average qualifying lap is 1.19 seconds quicker than his Spanish team mate, and he leads Alonso 5-4 in the qualy sessions they have both completed.

Alonso has the edge during the race. Where both MacHonda cars have finished, Alonso has been ahead of Jenson on 2 occasions. Jenson though has failed to finish ahead of Fernando at all.

Even were it a matter of a tenth of a second making the difference between winning races or not, there’s no evidence Jenson given the equipment can’t get the job done.

But its not tenths McLaren Honda need to find, its consistency and big whole integer numbers of time.

So there’s no ‘lack of performance’ clause at play here. Why on earth is Jenson’s 2016 drive in question?

Quite simply – cash is the answer.

Even after selling hundreds of very profitable P1 super cars, McLaren Automotive declared as profit of around just £8 million on almost half a billion of turnover – AND of course Macca Automotive and Racing are two separate entities anyway.

So there’s no money coming from the road car division.

Sponsor Hugo Boss have left McLaren for Mercedes and Santander’s contract with McLaren is reported to end this year. The Spanish Bank has though been withdrawing from many forms of sports sponsorship since the global banking crisis began.

Then there are widespread reports that Jonnie Walker are considering their future relationship with McLaren F1. This combined with the Santander contribution is believed to be around $30m.

Add to all this, McLaren’s likely finishing position in the championship will see them lose around $35m in prize money.

All this means Jenson Button’s wage bill has come under scrutiny.

It’s astonishing that the mighty McLaren are having to go cap in hand and ask him to forego £4 million of his contracted earnings, but times are tough in Woking.

Yet through it all Jenson has remained positive and dignified, telling the media this weekend, “Ron and myself have had some good chats. We’ve had some good talks, and hopefully that continues.

“If I’m in Formula One, I’m going to be with McLaren. I’ve had some difficult times; obviously here and the end of last year was very tough, but I’ve got a lot of time for this team.”

And precisely for this reason alone, McLaren should retain Jenson Button for another year.

The woeful start to the McLaren Honda partnership has been typified by appalling on track reliability and frankly the only team the MP4-30 cars consistently beat – is Manor F1.

Yet through it all, there have been no tantrums from Button – he has driven the car without complaint despite probably wishing he was in any other F1 car on the grid.

Jenson has remained positive through the year, refusing to criticise the team or Honda and his attitude stands in stark contrast to the haranguing Renault have received from senior Red Bull Racing personnel and drivers over the past two years.

The long and short of it is, if McLaren and Ron Dennis refuse to keep Jenson Button, they are likely to open themselves up to a far more critical commentary from the media and F1 fans, who at present are somewhat restrained due to Button’s consistent positive PR.

Jenson commented following Honda’s departure from F1, “My time at Honda was amazing. Some of my best times in Formula One, actually. I might not have won races, just one race, but I had a lot of fun”.

It would be fascinating to know how he really feels now about Honda and McLaren.

11 responses to “McLaren need Jenson Button

  1. I think JB is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid. He fully deserved his championship, his car was only quickest for the first 6 or 7 races and he made the most of it. Whilst knowing in the background he couldn’t crash the car as they had no spares and this was likely to be his best shot a becoming champion, that is immense pressure. Probably one of the best wet weather drivers of all time, just watch his first race at Spa. He was in a similar position to Vettel in that he had an ageing teammate slightly past his best and in a car that at times was the best, the difference was Vettel enjoyed this position for 4 years, Button just 6 months. I suspect if Vettel was paired with Button rather than Kimi he’d find his hand far more full.

    Perhaps his biggest failing is inability to deal with a poor handling car, he’s probably one of the worst on the grid, but in a car he likes, extremely quick, quick enough to shade a couple of world champion over a season. I’d go as far as to say he has the biggest variation between and shocking and awe inspiring driving on the grid, but as Mr F Williams said “you judge a drivers true speed by his peaks”

  2. “The long and short of it is, if McLaren and Ron Dennis refuse to keep Jenson Button, they are likely to open themselves up to a far more critical commentary from the media and F1 fans, who at present are somewhat restrained due to Button’s consistent positive PR.”……

    So basically he should stay because he’s a good PR guy and for the fear of any backlash from fans and the media?

    • At the moment they might as well, it’s not like any driver is going to make a difference to the results at the moment. Might as well take any small victory they can, even if that ‘victory’ is gentler PR.

    • It’s probably beneficial for them to have developmental input from two experienced drivers as well. Alonso’s not exactly been known for pushing development in a favourable direction in the past with Ferrari, so having Button’s opinion to balance that out is going to be useful for them too (for what little driver input is worth these days, especially when your engine manufacturer is letting you down that much…).

    • More a case of people having already held off giving Ron a lambasting over the way he treated Jenson last season, which was in stark contrast to the professionalism and grace with which Jenson responded to that shoddy treatment, rather than a suggestion that Ron would be in any way swayed by the publics’ perception of him.

    • Who is desperate enough to replace him? Pastor? 30 mill of whatever denomination won’t make up for rebuilding and replacing Ron’s cars.

  3. You can’t compare the drivers especially qualifying because more often than not, one driver isn’t even doing much running before they qualify, and I believe Alonso has suffered more of this.
    The car isn’t reliable enough give a good account of the drivers ability hence we go by their previous records.

  4. When he doesn’t need the money…. Why stay at the back of F1 while you can have some fun, respect and a couple of wins at the front in WEC? It just cannot be fun to run around at the back with an unreliable slow POS.

  5. I’m not a fan of Button, who won’t ever finish on the podium again and it took him too long to win a race anyway, but I can’t see why he shouldn’t be on the grid if someone like Maldonado is. Jenson is pretty desperate and I’m sure he’d agree to yet another paycut to stay in F1 for one more year. It doesn’t make sense from McLaren and Honda’s point of view to change someone like that mid project but as always it’s about the money

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