AUGUST 9, 2004
What are they all on about?
A great deal of rubbish is currently being said and written about Jenson Button's decision to switch from BAR-Honda to BMW Williams next season. BAR may have tried to claim the moral high ground by claiming that Button is breaking a contract but this has yet to be proven. If the matter does go to the FIA Contract Recognition Board and Button loses he could go back to BAR-Honda next year. It is hard to imagine that the relationship will be a happy one but it has happened before not least when the Board refused David Coulthard the right to leave Williams to join McLaren back in 1994 and was forced to stay with Williams in 1995. At the end of the year he moved to the Woking team.
Under European law, one cannot force someone to work if they do not wish to do that job and so Button could go to Williams anyway although in this case a financial settlement would need to be found. Clearly, however, Williams has taken legal advice and this has indicated that the team is within its rights to sign Button. If this legal opinion is upheld by the Contract Recognition Board Button will join Williams and that will be the end of the matter unless BAR wants to prolong the whole thing and move on from there to a civil action. The team could do this but that would take several months and the team would no be able to sign a replacement for Button in the interim because of its claim.
There is no obvious way in which the Briton will be in any danger of any licence suspension or not being allowed to race. If the switch was happening at the next race there might be the possibility of an injunction but that is clearly not the case in this dispute.
If BAR decides to drop Button now, it will seriously undermine its own case (not to mention its World Championship hopes) and so this is not really a viable option unless the team decides to give up and let Button go to Williams. In that case Button would probably be able to sue the team for breach of contract.
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