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BAR delighted with Button-Barrichello pairing 21 Sep 2005

(L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari and Jenson Button (GBR) BAR congratulate each other in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 4 April 2004

BAR could finally announce their 2006 driver line-up on Wednesday after confirmation that Jenson Button has been released from his Williams contract. Button will race alongside Rubens Barrichello next season, with Takuma Sato's future uncertain.

Button, who has been with BAR since 2003, has now agreed a multi-year extension to his current contract with the Honda-powered team. Barrichello, whose BAR drive was confirmed last month, will leave Ferrari to take up his new position on January 1, 2006.

“We are delighted to be able to confirm our 2006 race driver line-up,” said Nick Fry, BAR’s Chief Executive Officer. “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 BAR Honda for the next few years and that we considered Jenson and Rubens to be our dream line-up for 2006 and beyond.”

For Button, the announcement marks the end of months of talks and negotiations. It also sees the British driver get his wish of staying with BAR, the team he thinks has the best chance of bringing him the Formula One drivers’ championship.

“I'm obviously delighted to confirm that I will be staying with BAR Honda for the next few years,” he said. “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.”

The news means no BAR race drive in 2006 for Button’s current team mate, Sato, although Fry hinted that the team’s relationship with the Japanese driver may not yet be over.

“Takuma Sato has been an extremely valuable and much-liked member of our team for four years in the roles of test driver, third driver and, latterly, race driver,” he said. “He has made an enormous contribution to BAR Honda’s development. Takuma’s current contract reaches its conclusion at the end of 2005 but BAR Honda is in discussions with Takuma and his management regarding possibilities for the future.”

In a statement on his own website, Sato commented: "I am not surprised by today’s confirmation about next year but am obviously very disappointed with the news. I have many thoughts about the situation and have my own opinions, but now is not the right time for me to comment.

"I would like to thank all my fans and supporters for their continued faith and look forward to rewarding them with some good news soon."

BAR look set to finish no higher than sixth in this year’s constructors’ standings, meaning they will be in need of a third Friday driver next season, although the team have several other potential candidates on their books.