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GP Week : Issue 72
F1 NEWS >> THE continuation of the protracted contract negotiations at the Mercedes- powered McLaren and Brawn teams has taken a further twist this week, with the possibility of all-English and all-German driver line-ups at the teams drawing closer to reality. The only con rmed driver at either team for 2010 is Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, with the 2008 Formula 1 World Champion in the middle of a multi-year deal with the team for whom he has raced since entering F1 in 2007. New world champion Jenson Button's negotiations with the BrawnGP team, which took him to his title in 2009, appear to have stalled over the issue of the Englishman's salary. Button took a 70 percent pay cut at the start of the year to help BrawnGP's budget, but the team is understood to have only offered a small increase in base pay for 2010, with Button free to negotiate his own personal sponsorship deals to increase his income. The sting in the tail for Button, however, is that BrawnGP is believed to have signed Williams refugee Nico Rosberg for 2010, and it has been reported that a clause in the German's contract forbids Brawn from paying Rosberg's eventual team-mate a larger salary than the 2005 GP2 champion. Button's salary demands are naturally believed to be higher than Rosberg's, owing to the Englishman's long term commitment to the team through both its previous guises as BAR and Honda, allied to his status as world champion. The clause in Rosberg's contract is understood to have been agreed by Mercedes, which will take a 75 percent stake in BrawnGP in 2010 and could yet rebrand the team as a purely 'Mercedes' F1 Team. With fellow Germans Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock on the market and known to have been in discussions with Mercedes boss Norbert Haug over drives for 2010, and Force India's Adrian Sutil also yet to confirm his plans for next season, there is a plethora of talented Germans on the market to partner Rosberg at any new 'Mercedes' F1 Team. Mercedes is known to be keen to jump on the good-will PR wagon by supporting German drivers in F1, having made a failed bid to lure Michael Schumacher away from Ferrari to McLaren at the start of the millennium, and having also missed out on the talented Sebastian Vettel. All of which has drawn Button ever closer to McLaren. The world champion paid a visit to the team's base in Woking, England, last week for a tour of the facilities and to see the foundation of the team he could have behind him in 2010. If Button does take the plunge to partner Hamilton, it would be the first time that two Formula 1 world champions have been paired as team-mates since Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna raced together at McLaren in 1989. "As I've said many times before, Jenson wants to drive a car which is capable of winning the next world championship," Button's manager Richard Goddard told The Guardian. "We've been talking about possible terms for 2010 with Brawn for months and we're not being difficult or unreasonably expensive in our demands for Jenson. In fact we've given up quite a lot of negotiating ground in our discussions with them." The possibility of Jenson Button joining McLaren has also arisen after negotiations between the team and Kimi Raikkonen once again appeared to stall. Although Raikkonen and his management team were also spied at Woking last week, the Finn is still believed to be asking for more than McLaren is willing to spend in light of the payout the Finn is receiving from Ferrari for the early termination of his contract. With his motivation also a continual question, it looks increasingly likely that the 2007 world champion will either take a sabbatical or quit F1 altogether next year. Button and Hamilton: Team- mates in 2010? 5