JULY 28, 2005
Jenson in a mess, 12 months on
Jenson Button has managed to upset most of the British Formula 1 media in recent days with an ill-conceived exclusive interview with The Times newspaper about his wishes for next year. This is not really relevant in the overall scheme of things, apart from the fact that it undermines any attempts he may now be making to try to bring public pressure to bear on Williams to get the team to release him to BAR. A lot of the pressmen involved are asking themselves why they should bother to support Button's latest argument when he has left them all in the lurch.
But things are worse than that because, let us not forget, 12 months ago Button was arguing the opposite case. He wanted to leave BAR at all costs to join Williams. In the end Button's management failed to prove the case at the Contract Recognition Board.
Could the same happen again in 2006?
Jenson says that his contract at Williams is not binding but Williams responds that Jenson will be driving for the team whether he likes it or not. And if he does not want to drive, he is going to have to pay Williams a huge amount in damages AND sit out the 2006 season because the team is not about to back down to a driver. And if Jenson and his management think that Williams is about to compromise it is worth remembering that Frank Williams and Patrick Head can be very tough indeed and have called the bluff of the likes of Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill in the past. Both World Champions ended up out of the team as a result. The difference is that in those cases the drivers wanted to stay and asked too much money. If Button loses his current argument, he will be WITH the team.
Button says that this is a critical moment for his career. That may be so but it is also a critical time for the Williams team that gave him his first chance in F1 and has invested in him ever since. The Williams attitude is that if Button has made a commitment and the team has built a package around that commitment and that Button must now live by that decision.
Button has a lot to overcome if he decides to get legal about the problem - not least interviews he gave a year ago saying how much he wanted to join Williams. And while everyone in F1 understands that a driver always wants to be in the best possible situation, it is fair to say that Button is not very good at guessing where the next good package is coming from. Who is to say that, with a new V8 formula, a Williams will not be beating a BAR next year?
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