Button retained as Ron fights for control
McLaren finally opt to keep Jenson Button on a two-year contract, leaving Kevin Magnussen without a race seat
McLaren settled on their driver line-up in mid-December, choosing Jenson Button to partner Fernando Alonso. The decision comes as team chief Ron Dennis pushes to take control of the newly named McLaren Technology Group.
Alonso’s arrival from Ferrari was known long before the official announcement, but McLaren decided to keep 2009 world champion Button ahead of his 2014 teammate Kevin Magnussen at the last minute. Magnussen has been retained as “third, reserve and test driver”.
Team boss Ron Dennis said a that the delay in choosing Button was due to some “causes of concern” about the 2009 world champion. He did not go into detail about what these were but they seem to surround Dennis’s uncertainty about whether Button had the appetite for another season in F1.
“I gave Jenson some ideas on solutions,” said Dennis, “and he said: ‘No problem.’ Then it was very easy. We settled all the things between us that concerned me and what we all have to do is deliver against the commitments and promises we have made to each other.”
Button will drive for McLaren in 2015 with the option of a second year in 2016.
Dennis is believed to have been leaning towards retaining Magnussen, and had been trying to raise money in Denmark to make the choice easier, while his former friend and fellow shareholder Mansour Ojjeh preferred Button.
According to insiders, Dennis is trying to regain control of the McLaren Group, and felt the driver choice was a battle he did not need to ght. Dennis, who owns 25 per cent of the company’s shares, has struck an agreement with fellow shareholders Ojjeh and Mumtalakat, the investment arm of the Kingdom of Bahrain, to let him buy enough shares to take his holding over 50 per cent.
The deal struck is not an agreement to sell – it is an agreement that Ojjeh and Mumtalakat can sell at a given price, if they wish to do so, should Dennis raise required funds within a specified time.
The time limit is the rst major obstacle for Dennis, who has been trying to raise money to fund a buy-out for at least two years. Another obstacle is that it is not clear whether Ojjeh, and perhaps even Mumtalakat, actually want to sell. A McLaren spokesman said: “No transaction has taken place, but the shareholders have had discussions on how to best facilitate and enhance the future growth of the McLaren Group. When and if a transaction takes place, it is not envisioned that the current shareholders will exit McLaren completely, and announcements would be made at the