Button must keep his word, says Williams

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Williams continued: "Jenson could have been better advised. Williams have a fully binding contract. There is no let-out clause. It is very clear and straightforward and clear to understand. There needs to be a clear understanding of the word 'commitment'. Once you give your word, you should keep your word.

"I recognise that where he presently is, the team is doing well to very well. But then I look at the coming season and the order will almost certainly shuffle. We are a strong team with a strong past, a weak present and, certainly in my own mind, a strong future.

"We are as well resourced as any team, and I do not over-estimate. We will be back. And Jenson is a key part of that. We are looking forward to a British team with a British driver. And I remind you that we brought him in, in 2000, and we look forward to seeing him again, because we have a right - and proper and correct legal right - to expect him to be here. English law is as clear as it comes."

Williams admitted he has yet to have a detailed face-to-face meeting with Button and he is waiting for his former driver to name a time and place for that. "He spoke with me once on the telephone. I wasn't surprised he wants to leave - I'd already read it in the press."

Asked whether this intended defection had changed his opinion of a man he regarded as a friend, Williams replied: "I prefer to say 'no comment'. He's still a very young man. Racing drivers don't live in your world or mine."

There is a feeling among F1 people that, when push comes to shove, drivers can get what they want, contracts notwithstanding, but Williams firmly refuted that. "We require Jenson to be here because we require him to fulfil his part of our plan, and clearly many of our sponsorships are predicated upon his presence.

"We have promised his presence. If I were to say to Jenson, 'Oh, OK, no problem, off you go,' then it would probably start, over the next five seasons, a way of thinking between the drivers and their sponsor contracts, 'Oh, I've changed my mind, I'm sorry, I won't bother now, I'm not coming.' You can't have this. It sounds sanctimonious, but we need law and order, especially in F1."

He also dismissed BAR's offer to trade test driver Anthony Davidson for Button, with suitable financial compensation, and suggested that it had not been an official offer.

"I thought it was just a message, and it is not a priority at all. A driver needs at least two or three years of racing experience."

Taking away Michael Schumacher, Williams said Button was one of the top three young drivers. Yesterday, events took away Schumacher too, as his Ferrari stopped out on the track at the start of afternoon practice with an electrical problem. As Friday test drivers Ricardo Zonta (Toyota) and Alex Wurz (McLaren) fought for the fastest time, the other two drivers Williams alluded to, Kimi Raikkonen and series leader Fernando Alonso, were third and eighth fastest respectively. Button was ninth. But yesterday was all about the dirt and dust that left the Hungaroring a slippery playground. As slippery as events off it.

"We will accept Jenson here," Williams said in answer to Button's suggestion that no team wants a driver who doesn't want to be there. "After all, he was very keen to be here seven months ago. We will defend ourselves in court. We will protect our interests. I don't know why he thinks he does not have a binding contract, but that's why lawyers make a lot of money."

Williams ruled out any kind of financial settlement. "Jenson Button emphatically, in capital letters, is not for sale. For a serious racing team, we need him." The next move in this chess game is awaited eagerly.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Chanoch Nissany stepped up yesterday as the oldest driver in more than a decade to take part in a grand prix weekend. The Hungarian resident celebrated his 42nd birthday as Minardi's official Friday tester.

Yesterday's morning session was to prove a brief encounter, however, with Nissany spinning off into the gravel trap after just eight laps. He did not take part in the afternoon session.

Hungaroring practice times

First free practice session: 1 A Wurz (Aut) McLaren-Mercedes 1min 21.411sec; 2 R Barrichello (Br) Ferrari 1:22.834; 3 J Button (GB) BAR-Honda 1:23.028; 4 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.159; 5 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:23.234; 6 F Massa (Br) Sauber-Petronas 1:23.375; 7 N Heidfeld (Ger) Williams-BMW 1:23.384; 8 J P Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.558; 9 T Sato (Japan) BAR-Honda 1:23.679; 10 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:23.706; 11 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:23.764; 12 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:23.833; 13 M Webber (Aus) Williams-BMW 1:23.918; 14 G Fisichella (It) Renault 1:23.940; 15 V Liuzzi (It) Red Bull-Cosworth 1:24.174; 16 R Zonta (Br) Toyota 1:24.270; 17 J Villeneuve (Can) Sauber-Petronas 1:24.683; 18 N Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan-Toyota 1:26.130; 19 R Doornbos (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth 1:27.011; 20 T Monteiro (Por) Jordan-Toyota 1:27.344; 21 C Albers (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth 1:27.540; 22 N Kiesa (Den) Jordan-Toyota 1:28.230; 23 C Nissany (Isr) Minardi 1:34.319; 24 C Klien (Aut) Red Bull-Cosworth no time; 25 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Cosworth no time.

Second free practice: 1 Zonta 1min 20.409sec; 2 Wurz 1:20.519; 3 Raikkonen 1:21.281; 4 Trulli 1:21.410; 5 R Schumacher 1:21.631; 6 Montoya 1:21.662; 7 Barrichello 1:21.914; 8 Alonso 1:22.473; 9 Button 1:22.544; 10 Klien 1:22.626; 11 Fisichella 1:22.652; 12 Heidfeld 1:22.861; 13 Coulthard 1:22.886; 14 Liuzzi 1:22.913; 15 Webber 1:22.935; 16 Villeneuve 1:23.558; 17 Sato 1:23.560; 18 Massa 1:23.574; 19 Doornbos 1:23.670; 20 Albers 1:24.093; 21 Monteiro 1:24.862; 22 Karthikeyan 1:25.184; 23 Kiesa 1:25.629; 24 M Schumacher no time; 25 Nissany no time.