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Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 13:34 UK

Button in frame for McLaren drive

By Andrew Benson

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton
Button and Hamilton would make a strong line-up at McLaren

New world champion Jenson Button has emerged as a contender to join Lewis Hamilton in what would be a mouth-watering line-up at McLaren in 2010.

The Englishman has yet to sign a new contract for Brawn and McLaren are interested having so far failed to secure first choice Kimi Raikkonen.

"We've talked to a number of drivers," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to say more than that. We'll hire the two best drivers available as we always have."

Button's manager Richard Goddard refused to comment on whether he had held talks with McLaren, but told BBC Sport: "Brawn could have sorted Jenson out weeks ago and none of this would be going on.

"We've been trying to agree terms with them. He's made it clear he wants to stay and had they agreed a contract there would be no speculation.

A lot of quality seats may still be available so it's down to Brawn to make us an offer

Richard Goddard
Jenson Button's manager

"The press will speculate that anyone with a free seat next year will be offering Jenson a drive - he has displayed his great talent in a good car this year.

"That speculation won't die until Brawn offer him new terms.

"A lot of quality seats may still be available so it's down to Brawn to make us an offer. But this stuff certainly did not stem from us."

Raikkonen, who is also being chased by Toyota after being forced to leave Ferrari to make way for Fernando Alonso, has not yet decided on his future and McLaren are exploring other possibilities.

Their back-up plan if Raikkonen turned them down was to retain his fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen, despite their reservations about his performances in races.

But following Button's failure so far to agree terms on a new contract with Brawn, they are now understood to be interested in him - which would put the two most recent world champions, and two Englishmen, in one highly marketable line-up.

606: DEBATE
ononeleg

The Button-McLaren link first emerged in two national newspapers on Friday but it is understood there is substance in the story.

Button said on Tuesday that he wanted to stay with Brawn but that the team had yet to start substantive negotiations on a new deal.

Sources in F1 say the two parties have so far failed to agree on Button's salary.

He took a pay cut from £10m to about £3m over the winter to help secure the survival of Brawn, who emerged from the ashes of the Honda team after the Japanese company decided to quit F1 last December.

But now he is world champion he is said to be looking for a pay rise more substantial than the one Brawn are offering.

McLaren, one of the better funded teams on the grid, would be able to pay more money than Brawn.

Button may also consider that McLaren are likely to have a faster car than Brawn in 2010, having already overtaken them for pace this year despite a poor start to the season.

Jenson Button's Brawn leads Lewis Hamilton's McLaren at the Bahrain Grand Prix
Could Button and Hamilton be driving the same cars for McLaren in 2010?

But Button might be wary of teaming up with Hamilton, who is widely regarded as the out-and-out fastest driver on the grid.

Cynics will claim that the Button-McLaren link could have been leaked for one of two reasons.

It could be either a means for Button to get Brawn to up their offer to him, or it could be a way of McLaren trying to persuade Raikkonen to make up his mind.

In the background, there is also the fact that McLaren's long-term engine partner Mercedes is considering buying a large stake in the Brawn team, a move that is not popular in some parts of McLaren.



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see also
Brackley welcomes F1 hero Button
22 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Jenson Button news conference
20 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Button seeks place in F1 history
20 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn confident Button will stay
19 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Branson coy on Virgin F1 future
21 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Toyota target Raikkonen for 2010
02 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso out to emulate Schumacher
01 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari confirm capture of Alonso
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1
Mercedes considering Brawn buy-in
07 Sep 09 |  Formula 1


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