Williams team lose out in hunt for rising star
Jenson Button will drive for BAR next season after the Contracts Recognition Board (CRB) decided that he is legally bound to the team for 2005. Button had hoped to move to Williams, who had also claimed to hold a valid contract with the British driver.
The verdict comes three days after the CRB hearing on the matter in Milan, where representatives from all sides made their case to the independent body.
"Naturally I am disappointed by the ruling, but as a matter of principle, I firmly believe in standing by the decision the CRB have reached today, said Button. BAR have been extremely professional at the race track during this process, and I expect this to continue. I look forward to joining the BMW WilliamsF1 Team in the future."
In a brief statement, BAR, who are set to seal the runners-up spot in the 2004 championship at this weekends Brazilian Grand Prix, said they were delighted with the decision, adding: Jenson has played a crucial role in BAR's success over the past two seasons, particularly this year.
Both BAR and Williams had said before the hearing that they would not contest the outcome. Team boss Frank Williams said he was disappointed, but insisted he had no regrets about pursuing Button, whom he described as a driver worth challenging for, based on the "strong legal advice" the team had received.
The CRB accepted a significant number of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's arguments, but nevertheless found against us, Williams said. We do not believe any further legal action in relation to this matter to be in the broader interests of the sport. In spite of the CRB's conclusion, which relates to 2005, we will maintain our close relationship with Jenson for 2006."
The CRBs decision means that BAR are set to continue with their current driver line-up for next season, with Takuma Sato again partnering Button, while Williams must now look for another team mate for 2005 signing Mark Webber. An announcement is expected from the team in due course.