Button delay slows silly season

The three-week delay in the Contract Recognition Board's decision over Jenson Button's future will almost certainly have the knock-on effect of stalling the rest of the Formula 1 driver market as leading stars hold station for the chance of landing a top-line seat next year

Button delay slows silly season

The continued uncertainty over whether Button will race for BAR or Williams in 2005 - and even the remote possibility that he could be forced to sit out the season completely - means that front-running drivers cannot make firm commitments about their own future plans. The CRB's decision is now due on October 16, but could be delayed even further.

British duo David Coulthard and Anthony Davidson are the favourites to fight it out for the seat that Button does not take - and they will obviously be reluctant to accept opportunities elsewhere with less competitive cars until they get final word from Williams and BAR.

Speaking last weekend to The Mail on Sunday, Coulthard staked his claim for an opportunity at BAR - making it clear that he believed he could do a better job than Button has managed this season.

"I have the highest respect for Jenson Button, whom I regard as a friend, but I believe if I would have been driving his car this season I would have won a grand prix or two," he said. "It's just down to experience. Jenson will win many races in due course, but right now I know how to win and hope I will get the chance to prove it with BAR next season.

"If I do, there is no reason why I cannot challenge for the championship. The same can be said for Williams, too. I've been there before, don't forget, so there is no way they won't have a competitive car next time."

Their chief option outside of Williams and BAR is almost certainly whatever replaces Jaguar Racing. The team has yet to be sold, but whoever purchases it would likely put Davidson and Coulthard high on its list of candidates. The danger for either driver is that they miss their chance elsewhere on the grid by holding out for a seat at BAR and Williams, and then are overlooked there. It could leave them with nothing. One of their chief threats for the Williams seat if Button does not go there is Antonio Pizzonia.

The other possibility for the two British drives is that some teams are forced to run three cars next year, because the grid drops below 20 cars, and they could be given the extra cars at either McLaren, Williams or BAR.

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