Benetton signs Button on two-year lease

Williams driver Jenson Button has been leased to Benetton on a two-year contract that could see the 20-year-old back with the Grove-based squad for 2003

Benetton signs Button on two-year lease

The announcement, predicted in Autosport magazine on July 20th, leaves the way clear for Champ Car ace Juan Pablo Montoya to join Williams from Chip Ganassi Racing. The Colombian's signing to partner Ralf Schumacher will be officially announced at the US Grand Prix on September 24th.

Williams has a five-year contract with Button and has stressed that the two-year deal is a temporary release.

Benetton is in a rebuilding phase following its buy-out by Renault. In theory, placing Button with the Enstone-based team allows him to hone his skills in a less pressured environment, before potentially returning to Williams in 2003 as a fully-developed Grand Prix driver.

"I am very thankful to Williams for having given me the great opportunity of stepping in to Formula 1," said Button. "I hope to be able to continue gaining valuable experience in F1 in order to reclaim my seat with the Williams team."

Williams boss Sir Frank Williams said: "Jenson has astonished the BMW Williams F1 Team with his immediate grasp of Formula 1 and with the calmness of his approach to driving an F1 car even under the greatest of pressures in a qualifying situation. There is no doubt in my mind that Jenson will go on to be a truly great racing driver."

Button will partner the recently re-signed Giancarlo Fisichella at Benetton, replacing Alexander Wurz. Next season, the team will use Renault's all-new 110-degree V10, as a precursor to dropping the Benetton name and becoming the official Renault F1 team in 2002.

"I am really happy to have signed with Benetton and Renault for the next two years," said Button. "They are not only a team with a world championship-winning history, but there is also a strong future with Renault. I want to start winning races and it's great to know I will be with a team that can help me do that."

Benetton boss Flavio Briatore appears unconcerned over the prospect of 'fine-tuning' Button for two years, then losing him again to a major rival.

"Jenson has done an incredible job for his first year in Formula 1," he said. "He has shown natural talent and intelligence, which are two important characteristics for a driver. I think his partnership with Benetton and Renault will be very beneficial to both sides."


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