I can't keep finishing third, says Williams-bound Button

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The Independent Online

A month ago in Budapest, in the immediate aftermath of the surprise announcement of his intention to quit BAR Honda for BMW Williams in 2005, Jenson Button's two favourite words were "no'' and "comment''. Yesterday in a hastily convened press conference you could hardly shut him up.

"The first thing to say is sorry,'' he began. "I haven't been able to speak to anyone in the media for the past two weeks because I have an agreement with BAR not to do any press interviews.'' But after Williams yesterday officially lodged his new contract with the Contract Recognition Board in Geneva, as the first real step in the process of extracting him from the 2005 contract that the BAR team principal David Richards recently reconfirmed, it seemed an apposite moment for him to open up.

Financial and emotional contractual issues undoubtedly lie at the heart of a disagreement between Button and BAR that has been ongoing since the end of the 2003 season, but the 24-year-old Englishman is adamant that the real reason he wants to leave is to pursue his ambition of winning the world championship.

"I'm not rejoining Frank's team for emotional reasons, and they are definitely not a team that are stalled forever," he said. "They have a lot of fantastic people there and technically they are very strong. They know the reasons why they didn't make the best car this year.

"BAR are a very good team and the atmosphere there is very positive, but they do not have Williams' resources. They are a couple of years behind. I can't keep finishing third. I want to be the champion.''

But he said he was "deeply hurt'' by the knock his image has taken since his intended defection became public. "The contract issues got me quite annoyed. I feel let down and disappointed by the whole situation. If I wasn't performing, OK, but look at the results I've achieved this year. I don't think things have been handled perfectly and one thing I wish I had done was discuss it personally with Mr Ecclestone. That was a mistake.

"People think David Richards and I are close friends. We have a good relationship at the track, but not an 'all right mate!' sort of thing. Our contract issues have been tough and we have tried to resolve them. But they are just one of many things. I don't feel let down by the team, but I do feel let down by David.''

The Contract Recognition Board will meet in two or three weeks and a Williams spokesman said: "We anticipate a verdict five days after that.''

Certainly it is in Button's personal interests to go to Williams as soon as possible for winter testing before his team-mate Mark Webber gets his feet too far under the table with the engineers.

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