SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
Button and BAR
Jenson Button has signed for Williams for 2005 but the latest suggestion doing the rounds at Spa was that British American Tobacco, the owner of BAR, has decided to break the current deadlock over Button by offering the rising British star a substantial payment to settle an outstanding dispute over bonuses and to get him to stay with BAR-Honda for 2005 and 2006. This may be tempting for Button but it might paint him and his advisors in a rather less than flattering light, exposing them as being rather more mercenary than they like to portray themselves. Button's boy-next-door image has already been dented in this affair and another switch of tack would do more damage to his credibility. Button and BAR both have a problem with the current situation because until Williams puts a contract in the FIA Contract Recognition Board there is not a problem. Button knows that he needs to get on with his career at Williams as quickly as possible in order to be on an equal footing with the team's other new signing Mark Webber. On the other side of the coin BAR needs to think about next year and cannot sign anyone else until the Button situation is resolved unless it dumps Takuma Sato. If BAR signs another driver to race, Button could sue for breach of contract and would be free to go to Williams.
The team is believed to be in talks with both Red Bull and British drinks firm Diageo about a possible sponsorship deal involving the Smirnoff brand. Diageo has looked at several F1 teams and is believed to be deciding between BAR and McLaren. A Red Bull-vodka alliance would fit nicely into the BAR's policy of going for the youth market.
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