Williams rebuff BAR offer in battle to secure Button

A year after Jenson Button tried to jump ship and join Williams for 2005, his BAR-Honda team have offered Sir Frank Williams their test driver Anthony Davidson and a financial sweetener of £5m in a desperate attempt to hang on to Britain's leading race driver.

After his planned switch was stymied by the Contracts Recognition Board last September, Button signed a contract to rejoin Williams for 2006 and they intend to hold him to it. In Germany last weekend, where Button finished third, Williams turned down his verbal request to be released, and said: "We have an existing contract for Jenson to join us in 2006. There is nothing that will change that."

The BAR team principal, Nick Fry, said that it would breach Button's human rights to force him to honour a contract he no longer wants to be bound by. But Fry knows only too well that Williams now have the high ground with the CRB that was the key to BAR retaining him for 2005.

Williams are less attractive to Button after their poor performances this year accelerated the divorce from BMW. They are seeking a deal with Toyota, but the Japanese motor manufacturer must wait first to see if the financially beleaguered Jordan team can come up with the money. Williams may thus have to rely on Cosworth engines for a stopgap season. Several of their sponsors have medium-term contracts, but having to pay for engines will strain the budget.

"Jenson is a crucial part of our corporate strategy for 2006 and beyond," a team insider said. "He is a great driver and we have always had the utmost faith in him, ever since we gave him his F1 chance back in 2000."

Button only left in 2001 to go to Renault because Williams had a prior commitment to run Juan Pablo Montoya and an ongoing contract with Ralf Schumacher.

"Jenson brings gravitas to any race team, and is an established leader who can push a team forward," the source continued. "There is absolutely no question of us surrendering him."

It is difficult to see where Davidson would fit into Williams, even though they tried to get him as Mark Webber's partner this season. Webber has another year to run on his contract, while Williams have an option on the swift German Nick Heidfeld and no intention of releasing him to drive for BMW's own team in 2006 without financial recompense. Then there is the American Scott Speed, who is trying to break his contract with Red Bull so he can become a test driver at Williams. The team already have Antonio Pizzonia and Nico Rosberg fulfilling that duty, however, and Davidson only performs a similar job at BAR. Only Webber and Heidfeld have real race experience, and all lack Button's status.

"It is clearly in the interests of all concerned that this is sorted out quickly," said Fry, who is offering Williams £4.5m plus Davidson's £300,000 salary for two years. "We want Jenson to stay with us for the rest of his career."

BAR are hedging their bets, however. There have been talks with Rubens Barrichello for some time, but Felipe Massa's recent strong performances - described by team boss Peter Sauber as "flawless" in Germany - have also put the younger Brazilian in the frame.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power