Grapevine: Button Key in Driver Merry-Go-Round

Jenson Button provided Formula One's summer saga last year and now the Briton is revving up for a re-run

Grapevine: Button Key in Driver Merry-Go-Round

The 25-year-old is again caught in a tug-of-war for his services between Williams and BAR - this time with the novel twist of arguing the opposite of what he had maintained 12 months ago.

Last year, when Button wanted to ditch BAR for Williams, it was said that no team could force a driver to race for them against his will in such a dangerous sport.

Williams were winners, proven World Champions, while BAR could not satisfy Button's aspirations. Ultimately, he stayed at BAR because they had the valid contract.

Now Button wants to remain there despite having agreed a contract, which he says is not binding, with Williams after last year's debacle.

The argument, this time put forward by BAR boss Nick Fry, is again that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

Which of course is what happened last year, only the 'horse' drank the water and liked the taste so much that it did not want to go anywhere else.

Button says BAR, part-owned by Honda, are now the only team that can give him what he craves while Williams are depicted as a team on the slide without a manufacturer firmly behind them.

It would be a sideshow, something to keep Formula One ticking over during the August break, were it not for the fact that Button's future is pivotal to the whole driver merry-go-round.

Most of the paddock is watching 'Buttongate Mark II' with the outcome likely to have a domino effect.

BAR Vacancy

If he leaves BAR, a desirable vacancy will be up for grabs.

If he joins Williams, the departure of Germany's Nick Heidfeld for Sauber along with new owners BMW is a near-certainty since Australian Mark Webber has a solid deal.

Williams have an option on Heidfeld for 2006 however so he could stay if Button's move falls through, although Williams refuse to countenance that at present.

If Heidfeld does go to Sauber, then that will place a question mark over Brazilian Felipe Massa and Canadian Jacques Villeneuve.

Massa is a former Ferrari test driver managed by Nicolas Todt, son of Ferrari boss Jean. He is also out of contract with Sauber at the end of the year.

He has however performed far better than former champion Villeneuve.

The Canadian has one more year left on his contract and says he has no worries about 2006 despite being tipped for the scrapheap several times already this season.

"I am not even questioning it," Villeneuve said at the Hungarian Grand Prix when asked whether he was confident of staying. "The team was sold with all the contracts in place."

Massa, despite a wildly erratic first season in 2002, has been talked about as a future Ferrari driver since he arrived in Formula One and that speculation has reared up again.

The wilder turns of the rumour mill suggest that compatriot Rubens Barrichello could switch from Ferrari to BAR, where Brazilian Gil de Ferran is now sporting director, as a replacement for Japan's Takuma Sato as much as Button.

Sato is the only driver, apart from recent Dutch addition Robert Doornbos at Minardi, without a point so far this season after being disqualified at the San Marino Grand Prix in April.

Raikkonen Future

Even if Ferrari have done nothing to suggest a change is on the cards, the logic is that Massa could then be drafted in at Ferrari as Michael Schumacher's teammate before the seven times champion drifts off into retirement.

There is also the likelihood that Red Bull will seek to position either Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi or Austrian Christian Klien at another team with the two fighting for the right to partner Briton David Coulthard.

If both Massa and Villeneuve depart, then either of the Red Bull men might find a home at Sauber.

The only certainties are that Championship leaders Renault, rivals McLaren and Toyota will be unchanged.

McLaren cannot rest easy however, with Todt a fan of Kimi Raikkonen.

"I still have a contract for next year and concerning my future, I don't really know what is happening," said the Finn at the Hungaroring.

"I have not made my mind up. Maybe I stay with them (McLaren), because I am happy with all the people there, even if we have had some difficult times."

 

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