Still reeling from the shock of its star driver signing for Williams next year, BAR has issued Jenson Button with a deadline to find out exactly what is going on. The F1 circus took on soap-opera proportions when Williams announced late on...
Still reeling from the shock of its star driver signing for Williams next year, BAR has issued Jenson Button with a deadline to find out exactly what is going on. The F1 circus took on soap-opera proportions when Williams announced late on Thursday night that Button had signed for the team for 2005 and beyond.
It was apparently as much of a surprise to BAR as it was to any one else. While the vacancy at Williams was common knowledge, Button was not even thought to be a candidate. The British driver debuted with Williams in 2000 but BAR has gone from strength to strength this season and there was, supposedly, no reason to think Button would leave.
Button had been maintaining silence since the announcement and BAR is demanding an explanation. The team has given Essentially Sport, Button's management company, an ultimatum that Jenson must arrange a face-to-face meeting by the close of business on Monday, August 9th.
"We have been trying to talk to Jenson for days," said BAR boss David Richards. "He has a clear duty to all of those who've worked with him for the last two years to explain to them what is going on. We have complete confidence in the strength of our contractual rights and in the option that we have exercised for 2005."
According to BAR, its option on Button was approved on July 20th and was given in writing, which it claims Essentially Sport acknowledged. The option was also lodged with F1's Contract Recognition Board in Switzerland.
"If people make commitments they should keep them -- and I will use every means available to me to make sure that all the requirements of our contract are met," said Richards. "If we do not have a meeting with Jenson by Monday night to sort this out, the processes to enforce our rights under the contract will commence without further notice."
Williams claims that Button's option was not taken up by BAR and as far as it is concerned, Button was free to leave. Button himself told BBC radio: "I'm not a legal expert but from the information I have I'm able to race for Williams next year, which is my aim."
"My main aim is to be champion and I want to challenge Michael Schumacher in the next few years. To do that I think Williams is the best team. The resources at BMW are far greater than most teams on the grid and I know how they work."
As for BAR, Button believes he has done his job. "My commitment was there for the last two years," he said. "That was my contract and I fulfilled that and they've been a great team to work with. Obviously, it will be a bit different compared to the start of the season but these things happen and, as I said, my aim is to be world champion."
In another surprising turn, former double champion Mika Hakkinen has been linked with BAR. Hakkinen is currently visiting the Finnish Rally championship and commented: "The discussions with BAR are particularly interesting."