02 Aug 2005 03:53 pm

Buttongate II: 23 Sep 2005

Read and enjoy the words of the main players as Buttongate II — the saga of Jenson Button’s contractual knots — plays out. The story begins at the top of the page and finishes at the bottom.

See this for background.

Jenson naturally feels very at home at this team and he has made it clear to us this is where he would like to be. Now it is for Frank Williams to decide what he wants to do. We have made it clear we want Jenson in our team, we understand there are issues with achieving that but it doesn’t in any way change our desire to keep him with us next season.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 25 Jul 05

We do have an existing contract for Jenson for 2006 and we fully expect him to arrive at Williams at the due period of time.
Frank Williams, WilliamsF1 Principal, 25 Jul 05

No offer has been made and there have been no discussions. I’ve read a number of stories which have suggested a deal is being put together. That is not the case. The contract which allegedly exists is between his (Button’s) company and Williams. We haven’t seen the contract and nor do we have any knowledge of what is in it, barring the apocryphal.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 27 Jul 05, commenting on rumours that BAR has done a deal with WilliamsF1 to retain Jenson’s services in 2006

I can understand Williams’s situation, but Frank has to understand mine as well. To be competitive next year, any team has to be with a manufacturer that is fully involved. The position has changed a lot with Williams from last year. A racing driver’s career is short, so you have to make the best you can of it. Honda buying in was a major part of me wanting to stay [at BAR]. It shows how serious they are about winning the World Championship. This is a big decision for me. It’s not simply that I am changing my mind from year-to-year.
Jenson Button, 28 Jul 05

I don’t think the contract is binding and Frank [Williams] probably does understand that I need to do the best thing I possibly can. Certainly I don’t think any team wants a driver there that would like to be racing for someone else, I cannot see why anyone would like that. And I sat down with Frank, had a few chats about it and told him the way that I feel.
Jenson Button, 28 Jul 05

Williams has a fully-binding, straightforward contract. Once you give your word, you should keep your word.

Jenson is emphatically, in capital letters, not for sale. We are a serious racing team and we need him.

I recognise that where he presently is the team is doing well to very well but next season is all change for everyone with the new engines. We are a strong team with a strong past, a weak present and, certainly to my mind, a strong commitment to the future. We are very well resourced, as well as any team in the paddock.

We have to change his mind. He was very keen seven months ago to come here and now it is different. I recognise that we have not covered ourselves in glory but we will be back, we always come back.
Frank Williams, WilliamsF1 Principal, 29 Jul 05

A deal is a deal. If Jenson has signed a contract he should stick to what he has agreed to do. If he didn’t want to be at Williams he shouldn’t have signed the contract. He was doing what he wanted to do. I am a fan of Jenson’s and I would love to see him win races and become world champion one day. He is great for the sport but when you sign a contract, that’s it.
Bernie Ecclestone, F1 Supremo, 30 Jul 05

Jenson has decided to release this statement as various allegations have been appearing in the media over the past few days casting doubts on his honesty and integrity. Jenson is particularly upset at suggestions that he did not accord Sir Frank Williams the respect due to him by not speaking to him face to face.

The following factual statements are made to set the record straight.

A meeting took place in the Conference Room at Williams’ Grove Headquarters at 12 o’clock on Tuesday 12 July 2005. This meeting was attended by Jenson personally, together with his Manager, Richard Goddard. On the Williams side the meeting was attended by Sir Frank Williams, together with Patrick Head, as well as the Williams Chief Executive Officer Chris Chapple, the Williams Technical Director Sam Michael, and the Williams In-House lawyer John Healy. The meeting lasted about 1 hour.
During the course of the meeting Sir Frank Williams asked Jenson a specific question “from what you are saying it sounds like you don’t want to be here next season”. To this Jenson replied “no I don’t”. There is no question of there being any lack of clarity or misunderstanding on this point.

It has been suggested by Sir Frank Williams that a contract between Jenson and Williams (and there remain outstanding questions as to its validity) was signed 7 months ago, which would be in January of this year. This is incorrect. There are two documents which are relevant, one dated August 2004, and one dated September 2004.

Quotes have also been attributed in the media to Sir Frank Williams to say that Williams paid a substantial amount of option money on Jenson in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Again, to set the record straight, the facts are as follows:

Payments made were not payments made by Williams to retain an option over Jenson’s services. In fact payments were quite the opposite. They were payments made by Williams to Jenson in exchange for Jenson agreeing not to enforce a contract which he had entitling him to drive for Williams.
Statement released on Jenson Button’s Flash-riddled web-site concerning recent statements and discussion about his contractual arrangements, 1 Aug 04

The really impressive thing about him is that despite all this going on, his focus is unbelievable. I think that’s what it takes to be a champion. People who take a few knocks often come out the stronger. In Jenson’s case that’s what is happening.

He has said he’s guilty in that he did not pay enough attention to what his prior management were doing. But I think you ought to give a bit of slack. He was 24 then and he’s a racing driver. If anything, in an ironic way it has strengthened his fortitude and been character-building for him.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 5 Aug 05

BAR-Honda announced yesterday that Rubens Barrichello will be driving for the team in 2006. Not a word about who will be in the other car.
the Flying Nerd, F1 prognosticator, 16 Aug 05

At the moment our complete focus is on getting Jenson and helping him as much as we can with that. The alternatives are ones that we don’t want to consider because we want Jenson.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 19 Aug 05

The contract with Jenson, which I would not want to discuss openly, does not have an engine escape clause…
I think there is a lot of noise currently, but we optimistically believe that he will be fine. When he is in the car he will have too much to do.
Frank Williams, WilliamsF1 Principal, 19 Aug 05

If Williams came to us and wanted to do a deal then we are open to discussion. The final details have to be sorted between Williams and Jenson but if it helps and Williams want to involve us then we are all open to help the situation. It is up to them to make a suggestion. I think he (Jenson) is worth a lot to both teams. We wouldn’t be squabbling over him if he were not, but his value is impossible to quantify.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 21 Aug 05, commenting on suggestions that BAR may be prepared to financially compensate Williams to release Jenson Button for 2006

Where I drive next year depends on what Frank [Williams] decides to do. I believe Jenson will be here. He has a contract and he should honour it. If he doesn’t it will create a big mess in Formula 1.
Nick Heidfeld, current WilliamsF1 driver and man most likely to be replaced by Jenson for 2006, 31 Aug 05

It’s frustrating, and I have to take a lot of the blame for making the wrong decision in the first place. It’s a pretty disastrous situation to be in, and there’s a big difference in whether I am with BAR or not next year. This is 100% where I want to be and the only option I have for the future and fighting for the world championship. If I go somewhere else, then drivers can get forgotten very quickly, however good you are, and that’s the worry.

We’ve been talking, but I want to try and sort it out behind the scenes. The good thing, and the most important thing, is we are talking about the situation. It’s not just silence and a cut off. But I can’t say yet the talks are going well, although hopefully it will be over soon. It has to be before the end of the season. That would be better for everyone, and all involved know that, and it’s something we have talked about.
Jenson Button, 1 Sep 05

We have talked and I think that it is going in the right direction for both of us. We both need to get this cleared up as soon as possible. We all want to get everything sorted out before the end of the year so that we can just concentrate on next season.
Jenson Button, 9 Sep 05, commenting on talks being held with Frank Williams, with a view to gaining a release from his contract to drive for Williams in 2006

He has to face his responsibilities and honour the contract he has apparently signed with Williams. Do the job he has signed to do, and next time the merry-go-round stops, make sure he gets the right seat. No-one, not even Schumi, has the best seat year-in, year-out.

There is a lot of talk about him sitting out F1 next season if the wrangle about his drive for Williams or BAR is not sorted, and that would be a very damaging thing for British motorsport. Jenson is talented and good-looking, and one of the reasons a lot of people in the UK follow the sport.
Red Bull Racing driver (and friend of Jenson) David Coulthard, 11 Sep 05

I’m obviously delighted to confirm that I will be staying with BAR Honda for the next few years. Since I joined the team in 2003 we’ve shared some important moments in my career and the team’s history. There are many more goals for us to achieve together – not least of all winning the World Championship. I want to be at BAR Honda to see that happen – and I believe that it will happen. 2005 has been a challenging year but we’ve bounced back from our problems and the team is much stronger as a result. I also have a new team-mate in Rubens Barrichello and I look forward to the two of us pushing each other, and working together to keep driving the team forward.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the team, at Honda and our tyre partner Michelin for their support over the past three years. The effort that has gone into building this team into what it is today has been relentless. It’s been a privilege to be a part of BAR Honda and I am delighted that I will be part of its future. I look forward to achieving our next goal – our first win together – in the very near future.
Jenson Button, 21 Sep 05, quoted in the official press release announcing that he will stay at BAR in 2006

We are delighted to be able to confirm our 2006 race driver line-up. We can now put the uncertainty of the past few months behind us and focus on the future, which looks very exciting indeed. We have made no secret of the fact that we wanted Jenson Button to remain with B.A.R Honda for the next few years and that we considered Jenson and Rubens to be our dream line-up for 2006 and beyond.
Nick Fry, BAR Principal, 21 Sep 05, quoted in the official press release

WilliamsF1 today confirmed that it had reached an agreement with Jenson Button to release him from his contractual commitment to the team for 2006 and beyond.

As consideration for the release from the terms of his contract, Button has agreed a financial settlement with WilliamsF1.
Official WilliamsF1 press release, 21 Sep 05

I would like to thank Frank for accommodating a compromise to what was a binding contract and I regret the difficulties my decision has caused everyone involved.
Jenson Button, 21 Sep 05, quoted in the official WilliamsF1 press release

This is where it all starts, really, for me. I have been in Formula One for six years but we are going to build on where we are at the moment and, for me, this is the place that it is really going to all start. I think we are a team that will be fighting for the world championship in the future. I would not have fought as hard for this if I did not truly believe that.

I am ecstatic we have been able to sort out this situation, it has not been nice, but thanks go to Frank [Williams]. We are good friends, so it is a tough position to be in. I had to go with what I though was right and I think it showed how determined I was to make this work, how much I really want to be at BAR-Honda. It is good we could stop it before it went any further. I have not just walked away, we have come to an agreement that is good for both of us. I had as many meetings as I could with him and he realised it was down to me, myself. That made the decision.
Jenson Button, 23 Sep 05, commenting on the future now that his contractual situation has been resolved

I can’t comment [on the figures] — that’s between Frank and myself, I’m not going to discuss money. I have put my hand in my own my pocket. It’s always very difficult putting your hand in your pocket but that was what I had to do. The contract was between Frank and myself though it had to come from me.

The main thing was me going to Frank and talking to him over and over again and explaining why I wanted to be at BAR-Honda. Money came into it for the settlement but I don’t think it was just that. It was down to me going to see Frank and talking it through and him realising that there was no point having a driver who wants to be elsewhere. Frank and I haven’t fallen out over this, we’ve come to an agreement which is good for both of us, that’s business. We are both going to move forward now and put this behind us. It’s a clean break and now I can concentrate on my future.

I’m extremely relieved. I can’t stop smiling.
Jenson Button, 23 Sep 05, commenting further on the future and the settlement process

2 Responses to “Buttongate II: 23 Sep 2005”

  1. on 16 Feb 2006 at 17:17 (Sydney) 1.The Flying Nerd » Blog Archive » 2006 F1 season approaching — what’s happening? said …

    [...] On the driver front, English playboy Jenson Button (who needs to win a race in 2006 to prove that he can do it) is joined by Rubens Barichello (who has stepped out from under Michael Schumacher’s shadow at Ferrari). Frankly, I think Jenson may be in for a bit of a shock. And this shock may leave Honda wondering why they have paid so much and why they went through all the hassles of Buttongate II (see here for details). [...]

  2. on 17 Jul 2006 at 7:33 (Sydney) 2.The Flying Nerd » Blog Archive » Jenson Button: oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… said …

    [...] But Frank is a canny operator, and he knew that Jenson would be a valuable sponsor-attractor for WilliamsF1 (in a year when sponsors would be hard to find, without a factory engine deal). Frank played hard ball. It’s all documented here. [...]

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