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British colours fly high at McLaren

Jenson Button will partner Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season in an all-British line-up of champions, the Formula One team said.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2009 00:31 IST

Jenson Button will partner Lewis Hamilton at McLaren next season in an all-British line-up of champions, the Formula One team said on Wednesday.

The multi-year deal completes an astonishing year for 29-year-old Button, who did not know if he had a future in the sport last December when his then-employers Honda pulled out.

“It's always a difficult decision to leave a team when you've been there for so long. But life is all about challenges — and, most important of all, it's about challenging yourself,” Button said.

“You can't help but be affected by this team's phenomenal history. McLaren is one of the greats of world sport, and its achievements and list of past champions read like a Who's Who of Formula One,” he added.

“I've followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable finally to be a part of it.”

The signing means Mercedes-powered McLaren will have two champion drivers for the first time since 1989 when France's Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna formed an explosive pairing at the Woking-based team.

It will also be the first time a team has started the new season with the most recent two title-holders as well as the first pairing of British champions since Graham Hill joined Jim Clark at Lotus in 1968.

“It has always been our policy to employ the two very best possible drivers,” said team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

“In Jenson and Lewis, we feel we not only have the fastest pairing on the 2010 grid but also the two most complete, professional and dedicated drivers in Formula One.”

While Button will still be well rewarded, with reports suggesting a pay packet of around six million pounds ($10.09 million) a year, he faces the toughest challenge of his career.

Hamilton, 24, has been nurtured by McLaren for more than a decade and has made the team his own since bursting onto the scene as a sensational rookie in 2007 and then winning the championship in 2008.

Hamilton said he looked forward to working with Button, while also extending his best wishes to departing Finnish team mate Heikki Kovalainen.

“I already know Jenson, and we get on very well together. We both really want our team to succeed,” he said.

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