Lewis Hamilton ultimatum issued by Jenson Button before partnering Briton at McLaren
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Former F1 driver Jenson Button has pinpointed a defining moment in his career after the 2009 world champion switched from Brawn GP to McLaren in 2010 to partner Lewis Hamilton, however, demanded “equal treatment” alongside his fellow Briton or claims the deal would’ve been off.
The Briton stormed to victory during Brawn GP’s only season in Formula One in 2009, topping the standings all season, with Button finishing 11 points clear of Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.
However, Button’s next journey took him to McLaren, alongside the then one-time world champion Hamilton, with both drivers on a level playing field heading into the 2010 season.
“I remember walking into McLaren and the first thing I said before I met anyone, I spoke to Martin Whitmarsh, I spoke to Ron Dennis, and I said, ‘My first question is, is this Lewis’ team, am I going to have equal treatment here?’, because if I’m not, I don’t want to be here,” Button told The High Performance Podcast.
“And they said, ‘Yes, everything will be 100 percent equal between both of the drivers’. I said now I can start and then I walked in, met everyone, and got a pretty good rapport with the team very quickly.
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“My dad would walk in, [he] was always in the background. He would speak to the engineers. It was quite a cold atmosphere and he made it a lot more friendly. And you know my manager was great, my physio, my PR man. I think it just made everyone a bit more relaxed in the team and drivers weren’t these alien people that you can’t talk to within a team.”
The move however did raise some concern alongside his former team, with some claiming it was a “crazy” move for the Briton, with Button claiming he was even shouted at by the team’s chief operating officer Nick Fry.
“We came into McLaren, for example, after winning the World Championship in 2009 [and] people said it was the craziest move to move to McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton, even Ross Brawn said that,” Fry said.
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“I told the team that I was leaving at the end of 2009. I spoke to Nick Fry, who basically just shouted at me. He was one of the bosses alongside Brawn at the time, and I remember going into his office and telling him I was leaving and he just shouted at me.
“I basically started laughing because it was a really uncomfortable situation. I kind of felt for him for how aggressive he was, and he just looked at me and said, ‘Why are you laughing at me?’. It was just the situation and it [was] just what I didn’t expect.
“I told Ross and he was very friendly and said, ‘I think you’re making a big mistake going up alongside Lewis’. I was like, ‘This is awesome, a lot of positive energy I’m getting here’, but it happens. I didn’t have a contract for the next year and it just didn’t feel like the place for me, and going to McLaren was.”
Button remained with McLaren until 2017, before deciding to retire from Formula One to concentrate on other racing ventures.
Hamilton meanwhile left McLaren at the end of 2012 and has remained at Mercedes ever since, winning six of his seven world titles alongside the British-based German team.
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