Mercedes-Benz have bought the Brawn GP Formula One team in a move that could see Jenson Button join Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season.
According to reports in Germany, Mercedes has bought a 75 per cent stake in Brawn, which will be rebranded as the Mercedes GP team from next season.
Despite having won the world championship last month, Button's future remains uncertain. He has been unable to negotiate a substantial pay rise from Brawn and believes he is being pushed towards a deal with McLaren to drive alongside Hamilton.
Mercedes said McLaren had bought back the German company’s stake in the Woking-based team but added the two would still co-operate over engines for the 2010 season.Even though that would form a “dream team” of successive English world champions, Button has been hurt by the failure of Brawn to come up with a deal he believes would confirm his new status.
The Somerset-born driver, 29, took a £5 million pay cut to £3 million last season, but expected recognition of his loyalty after winning the championship. He has been offered a £4 million a year pay deal by Brawn.
From being down and out when Honda, the Japanese carmaker, quit Formula One a year ago, the team has been revived under Ross Brawn, who delivered the constructors' world championship last season. With sponsors beating a path to the team’s door for next season, the value of the operation could be as much as £100m.
Ross Brawn is expected to remain in his role, however, the future of his drivers is more uncertain. German Nico Rosberg is expected to become the team's principal driver, with his compatriot Nick Heidfeld likely to partner him.
Neither driver has been confirmed although yesterday Norbert Haug, the head of Mercedes Sport, said he was attempting to secure Heidfeld, who has driven for BMW since 2006. "We are speaking with Nick Heidfeld as well," Haug said. "Mercedes-Benz supports the idea of signing an experienced and capable German driver. There is however no reason to finalise the driver situation too hastily."