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AUGUST 17, 2000

Button's manager Robertson insists Williams turned down £30 million to buy out deal

JENSON BUTTON'S manager David Robertson said on Thursday that BMW-Williams team boss Frank Williams turned down £30 million (pounds) to buy out the young Briton from his five-year contract.

In the wake of Button's loan move to Benetton for the 2001 and 2002 seasons, Robertson insisted that he wanted to buy Button out of his Williams contract to make him a free agent.

As it stands, Williams can recall Button in 2003 and 2004 if Juan Pablo Montoya, who is expected to replace Button at Williams in his absence, does not measure up.

"I tried to buy Jenson out of his contract with Williams," said Robertson. "Frank Williams wouldn't even consider it. The sort of figure we were talking was £30 million, but he was not interested.

"He realizes what a talent he has on his hands. He wants to see how good Juan Pablo Montoya will be in Formula One, while Jenson continues to develop elsewhere. To be fair, it is a pretty shrewd move."

Robertson insisted the move to Renault-backed Benetton does not signal that Williams have lost faith in the 20-year-old, who has scored eight championship points in his debut season in the sport.

"£30 million is a lot of money, so if Frank wouldn't accept that he must think a lot of Jenson. It shows they have not lost confidence in him. This is a great move for him. It was our job to find him a competitive team and that is what we've done. We're thrilled."

Robertson revealed that he had spoken to several other teams about taking on Button, including British American Racing, Jordan and Jaguar. He also said there is a good chance Button will return to Williams in 2003.

He added: "We talked to a number of teams, like BAR, Jordan and Jaguar. We wanted to hedge our bets so that there was no chance Jenson would be left out. Just because he has signed for Benetton doesn't mean he'll stay there. There is a very, very good chance he will go back to Williams in 2003."