Formula 1 20 Sep 2005 01:49 pm

Buttongate II over?

Speculation (see this) in the press suggests that Buttongate II, the wrangling over which team British Formula 1 driver Jenson Button will be part of in 2006, is over. It’s been suggested that a financial settlement between Jenson Button, WilliamsF1 (the team which holds a contract for his services in 2006) and BAR (his current team, where he wants to stay in 2006) has been reached. It’s suggested that BAR is providing funds for Jenson to use to buy his way out of the WilliamsF1 contract.

I’m not really surprised by this outcome. 2006 looks like a tough year for WilliamsF1:
* they have lost their (free) BMW factory engines, and must purchase Cosworth engines
* major sponsor Hewlett Packard has decided not to renew its partnership with the team (worth several tens of millions of $US per year)
* the team has signed to drive on Bridgestone tyres (Bridgestones have been clearly outclassed by Michelin this year).

A financial settlement with Button might work for the team on several fronts:
* incoming funds from Button could help defray the Cosworth engine costs
* Button is an expensive driver — the team can now hire a cheaper ‘number 2’ to Mark Webber (test drivers Nico Rosberg and Antonio Pizzonia would appear to be the leading candidates, but Anthony Davidson should not be ruled out).

But don’t lose hope, WilliamsF1 fans. Nerdly prognostications suggest that things will look up in 2007, with WilliamsF1 set to use Toyota power (branded Lexus). This could be A Good Thing, as Toyota engines are very powerful (at least in 2005), and Toyota’s capacity to invest in staying at the front seems almost unlimited. Pointing to this outcome are the following:
* WilliamsF1’s Cosworth engine deal appears to be for just one year
* Toyota appears to be planning to switch to Bridgestone tyres for 2006 (and beyond) as well — and it would certainly be to Toyota’s advantage to have both Toyota-powered teams on the same rubber!

I won’t update the Buttongate II page until there is clear comment on the matter. Until then, your speculation and comments are encouraged.

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