Williams are expected to confirm tomorrow that Jenson Button has been released from his contract and is free to stay with BAR- Honda. Button has paid between £12m and £15m of his own money in compensation, but no comment was available from either his management or Williams yesterday.
Button has an offer on the table from the BAR shareholder and engine supplier, Honda, worth £48m for the lifelong rights to his image and name, but the forfeit is none the less a substantial sum and this will be an expensive lesson for the 25-year-old Briton.
Twelve months ago Button was desperate to escape from BAR-Honda to return to Williams, who gave him his Formula One chance in 2000 before he moved to Renault for two years. He joined BAR in 2003 when he was released in favour of Fernando Alonso, who is set to be world champion.
In July, Button made it clear that he had changed his mind again. "When I made the decision to go to Williams I didn't realise how much commitment Honda were going to make to their Formula One programme."
He added recently at the Belgian Grand Prix: "We are still talking, and it is a lot more amicable. I really want to stay with BAR- Honda in order to challenge for the championship." It seems final discussions occupied only three days, before Button opened his chequebook.
Having released Nick Heidfeld to race for BMW in 2006, Williams must find a partner for Mark Webber. Antonio Pizzonia will stand in for the injured German in Brazil this weekend, but Williams may give a ride to their other test driver, Nico Rosberg, son of the former Williams champion, Keke Rosberg, in the final races in Japan and China.Reuse content