JULY 20, 2002
The Silly Season
THE Renault F1 team has announced that it will be running Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli next year and that means that Jenson Button is on the market. But the Button management says that a new contract has been agreed with another team and will be announced within two or three days and say that they are "very happy" with the result. The speculation at Magny-Cours centered on Sauber, British American Racing, Toyota, Jaguar and Jordan.
But none of these deals really make sense.
Button visited Sauber last week and has a personal contract with Red Bull but it is not clear whether or not the Swiss team would be willing to pay Jenson the kind of money he would like to see. There is also an issue of a clause in the contract which would allow Button to go back to Williams in 2005. Sauber can release either Nick Heidfeld or Felipe Massa from their current contracts but at the moment there is no sign of that happening.
BAR boss David Richards said on Saturday night that he had no deal with Button and so the possibility of an announcement within a matter of days (Monday or Tuesday seem the most likely) is not high. In addition Richards is still negotiating with Jacques Villeneuve, who has no obvious place to go if he moves from BAR - which he does not have to do. Button might replace Olivier Panis but this would have two drawbacks: he would have to accept a secondary role to Villeneuve and it would mean that, by a roundabout route, Renault would have taken out the last French driver in F1 - which would be a cataclysmic thing for Renault's Patrick Faure to have been seen to do.
Toyota says that it is not planning any announcement until September and there is believed to be pressure from Japan to take a driver from the American racing program.
Jaguar Racing is believed to have little interest in the clause about Button going back to Williams in 2005 and sources at Jaguar say this will not happen.
Jordan might be an option but the team is not expected to have a factory engine next year and so there is little point in Button going there, although this might give the team the support of Benson & Hedges which has made no secret of its desire to run a British driver. However it is unlikely that Eddie Jordan could afford to pay Button.
Given the apparent satisfaction of the Button management there must therefore be another option which has not been considered.
The only possible one can imagine is that McLaren will terminate its deal with David Coulthard and sign up Button as a replacement. That would probably involve Button's management negotiating a release from his long-term arrangements with Williams - but that is not impossible as Frank Williams has no shortage of drivers on his books.
This would free David Coulthard to go to Jaguar, which would be a perfect match, would pay David well and would help to convince the Ford Motor Company that the project is going places.
Whether this is true remains to be seen but this is the one scenario that makes sense...
All will be revealed within a matter of days.
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THE SILLY SEASON
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FISICHELLA GOES TO HOSPITAL
ARROWS GO OUT FOR A LAP
SCHUMACHER BACK ON TOP
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IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE GPWC?
RUSSELL ON THE MOVE?