BAR releases Button statement

BAR team boss David Richards admits he is 'astounded' over reports that his driver Jenson Button has signed a contract with rivals Williams for next year.

BAR releases Button statement

Williams released a statement on Thursday evening announcing the signing of the Briton in a two-year deal, but on Friday Richards claimed that BAR has an option on Button for next year and that the Briton is staying put.

It is reported that Button can leave BAR if it's at risk of losing engine suppliers Honda, but the Japanese manufacturer renewed its deal with the team two weeks ago.

BAR has now released a statement from Richards over the matter before holding crisis talks at the team's factory in Brackley.

"We are absolutely astounded to hear that Jenson thinks that he is leaving BAR for Williams next season," the statement read. "Neither myself, nor any other member of the BAR team, has been contacted by Jenson to discuss this matter.

"Jenson is under contract with BAR for 2005, since we took up an option on his services only last month. At no time during the last few months has Jenson expressed anything other than his desire to continue working with BAR to achieve our collective goal of winning the World Championship.

"It is our intention to enforce our current contractual position with Jenson. My duty is to the 400-strong workforce which has worked tirelessly over the past two seasons to give Jenson the car he has today; and to our partners, whose unfailing support and commitment to the team has contributed to the solid structure we now have in place.

"Unfortunately this is now a matter for the lawyers and I have every confidence that the legal process will confirm that yesterday's announcement has not only been premature but also invalid".'

Earlier on Friday, though, Williams technical chief Sam Michael said the team sought legal advice before signing the Briton and the Australian insists the contract is valid.

"A number of days ago we were informed by Jenson's legal team that the option was not taken up and he was available," Michael told the BBC. "We put in place a contract with Jenson and we wouldn't go down that route without getting our own legal opinion. Our opinion supports Jenson's legal and management team so as far as we are concerned the contract is valid."

Button's signing has taken the Formula 1 fraternity by surprise giving his third position in the championship standings and BAR's staggering progress this year as one of the only teams capable of taking on the Ferrari juggernaut.

But Button believes the resources available at Williams provides him with the best opportunity to become a world champion in the near future.

"I am very pleased that I had the option to re-join the BMW WilliamsF1 Team where my Formula 1 career started," he said. "For the meantime, the 2004 season has my full focus and attention. Beyond this, I have every confidence that the massive investment in resources and the depth of talent at WilliamsF1 and BMW provides the best platform for my future ambitions to be a World Champion."

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