Silly season may still surprise

The most complicated and unpredictable Formula 1 driver market of recent years may not have played out its final chapter yet, with speculation suggesting that more shock changes could be in the offing

Silly season may still surprise

Just when it appeared that the top teams had all settled on their drivers - with only Jenson Button's fate to be decided by Formula 1's Contracts Recognition Board - the paddock is rife again with whispers that big developments might still come.

Amid growing suggestions that BAR will be successful in the Button contract dispute with Williams, one bizarre scenario being talked about if the British ace stays put in 2005 is that Giancarlo Fisichella joins Mark Webber at Williams rather than goes to Renault.

Such a move would clearly make sense for Williams and Fisichella - with the team in need of a top-line driver if it cannot get hold of Button, and Fisichella clearly up for any chance with a top outfit.

The Italian does actually already have a contract with Williams, which was agreed to get him released from his Sauber commitments before he was subsequently moved on to Renault. What is not known is whether that original contract gives Williams the right to recall Fisichella.

However, such a need may not have to be exercised with insiders claiming that Renault boss Flavio Briatore may be willing to let Fisichella go because he is considering keeping Jacques Villeneuve on board for next year - even though the French-Canadian has signed a contract with Sauber.

Such a situation would not be very straightforward and would inevitably involve a payment to Sauber, who would not be very willing to let Villeneuve go. Team boss Peter Sauber has shown himself to be astute in the past about getting the right pay-off for drivers - most famously in 2001 when he got a multi-million pound compensation package off McLaren for Kimi Raikkonen to be released early.

Speaking to Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell about the Villeneuve-Fisichella scenario, Sauber admitted that anything was possible in F1 but such an outcome would prove very expensive for the interested parties.

"In Formula 1 you can expect everything," he said. "But if it happened then the moral integrity of Villeneuve would be put to the test. I do not have a problem at the moment and if it did happen then I can say one single thing: it will cost a lot."

The scenario appears too complicated and involves too many parties to realistically happen, but in a year when the twists and turns of the driver market have shocked many in the pit-lane, it appears that nothing can automatically be ruled out.

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