Official: Button to McLaren! The British Dream?

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As the Guardian suggested Tuesday, Jenson Button will race for McLaren on a new multi-year contract starting in 2010. The British world champion will join Lewis Hamilton to form an all-British world champion lineup for the first time since Graham Hill and Jim Clark in 1968. It also pairs the two most recent world champions for the first time in F1 as well.

Button Hamilton

Button said:

“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.”

Button will join former world champion Lewis Hamilton who seems to be excited about the prospect:

“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.”

After receiving a advisement from Ross Brawn regarding the decision to leave the team for McLaren’s stable, Button seems to have ignored any caution about teaming with Hamilton. The concern is with Hamilton’s position as number one driver within the team and how Button will work with a team focused on primarily Hamilton. Former champion Fernando Alonso did not fare well in that environment and most recently it seems Heikki Kovalainen was a victim of it as well.

Team boss Martin Whitmarsh is quick to supply us with encouragement, however, but it not mentioned in his statements that both drivers are equal or will be getting equal kit throughout the year. After seeing Alonso and Kovalainen struggle at McLaren you would have to assume that Button’s management made a strong case legally for his receiving the same kit, upgrades and car performance as Hamilton. Can Button succeed where Alonso and Kovalainen failed?

One thing is for sure, there may not be enough room in the garage for the two fathers, John Button and Anthony Hamilton, as they are apt to wandering around the pit area during race weekends. Who will the world feed focus on? John and his pink, un-buttoned shirt or Anthony and his brooding rictus? yeah, that last one is for you Matt Bishop.

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