Button will stay at BAR in 2005

Jenson Button will stay at BAR next season after Formula 1's Contract Recognition Board announced on Wednesday that his contract with the team for 2005 was valid and Williams confirmed it would not challenge the decision

Following three full days of deliberation about the verdict, following a hearing in Milan on Saturday, the CRB claimed that Button had no right to sign a deal with Williams for 2005 because he already had a contract with BAR.

Williams chief Frank Williams confirmed that his team accepted the ruling of the CRB and believed a further legal challenge would not be in the best interests of the sport.

"Naturally we are disappointed with the CRB's conclusion," he said. "We took the view that Jenson was a driver worth challenging for, and based on strong legal advice we have no regrets about making a bid for his services.

"The CRB accepted a significant number of the BMW Williams F1 Team's arguments, but nevertheless found against us. We do not believe any further legal action in relation to this matter to be in the broader interests of the sport."

BAR issued a short statement on Wednesday night declaring its satisfaction with the outcome of the CRB trial. It said: "BAR has expressed delight at the confirmation today from the Contract Recognition Board that BAR's contract with Jenson Button is the only valid contract for 2005.

"Jenson has played a crucial role in BAR's success over the past two seasons, particularly this year when BAR is hopeful of finishing second in the 2004 constructors' championship."

The CRB decision will come as an embarrassment for Button, who went out of his way just after signing the Williams deal to make it clear that there was no way his contract with BAR was valid for 2005.

Speaking to Autosport in August, Button had said: "The contract ends with BAR at the end of the year. That's it. I'm contracted to Williams for next year and the reasons are that I want to be racing for a team that has a chance of winning the world championship next season, and I think that team is Williams-BMW."

It now appears that the clause which Button's management team tried to use to get out of the BAR contract - relating to Honda's intention to supply fully competitive engines to the team - was in fact fully valid.

Although Button's management team is believed to have claimed that Honda's intent was not the 'guarantee' that the contract stipulated, BAR insiders claim that the Japanese manufacturer's intent was fully acceptable as evidence of the company's future commitment.

Button himself expressed his sadness at the ruling but made it clear that he would stay at BAR only until he was free to join Williams.

"Naturally I am disappointed by the ruling, but as a matter of principle I firmly believe in standing by the decision the CRB have reached today," he said.

"BAR have been extremely professional at the race track during this process, and I expect this to continue. I look forward to joining the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in the future."

With the CRB's ruling only relating to 2005, it is looking increasingly likely that Button will switch teams in 2006. Williams himself hinted that there was every chance of his team signing Button for 2006.

"In spite of the CRB's conclusion, which relates to 2005, we will maintain our close relationship with Jenson for 2006," explained the team boss.

BAR's victory means that Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia looks almost certain to be handed the race seat alongside Mark Webber next season - having impressed the outfit this year during some appearances as stand-in for the injured Ralf Schumacher. But Jordan's Nick Heidfeld and BAR third driver Anthony Davidson may also stand a chance of being handed the dream opportunity.

The fact that Button looks set to join Williams in 2006 also means that David Coulthard will have an outside chance at a deal because he would willingly accept a one-year contract.

Previous article The battle for Silverstone
Next article Analysis: CRB Ruling Leaves Button in Dilemma