German car giant Mercedes has bought the Brawn Formula One team, with Jenson Button set to join Lewis Hamilton as his McLaren team-mate.
Mercedes will buy 75 percent of Brawn in partnership with an Abu Dhabi investment company but will also continue as McLaren’s engine partner until 2015.
The Brawn GP team won both world titles in their debut season in 2009—with Brit Jenson Button winning the Driver’s Championship.
Following the purchase by Mercedes, the team will be rebranded as Mercedes Grand Prix, giving a somewhat mythical ending to the one-year old, doubly-successful Brawn GP team that triumphed over initial financial adversity to become champion after only one season.
Ross Brawn will stay on as team principal. He and chief executive Nick Fry will retain a 24.9 percent shareholding in the team. The remaining 75.1 percent will be split between Mercedes, which will own 45.1 percent and Abu Dhabi company Aabar Investments, which will own 30 percent.
Nico Rosberg will be their lead driver, with Nick Heidfeld his likely partner. Neither driver has yet been confirmed but Rosberg, who drove for Williams in 2009, is widely known throughout F1 to have already signed for the Mercedes team.
As part of a deal that will see the McLaren Group buy back Mercedes’s 40 percent shareholding by 2011, the German company will continue to supply free engines and sponsorship to the McLaren team for at least the next six years. Additionally, the team’s official name will remain as Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.
Button, who won the drivers’ title this year, has been trying to secure a pay-rise from his £3.5m salary but it seems Mercedes is not interested in keeping him on. He and his manager Richard Goddard visited McLaren on Friday and Button now looks sets to join the McLaren team on double the salary that Brawn were offering.
Button’s decision is understood not to be solely about money—sources say he considers McLaren might have a more competitive car than Brawn in 2010. Button and Hamilton are likely to end up as McLaren team-mates for the 2010 F1 Championship, a formidable British world championship-winning pair.
In other news, former McLaren driver Kimi Raikonnen is likely to be out of the 2010 F1 season, having so far failed to find a team.