Ferrari has confirmed that Rubens Barrichello will leave the team at the end of the year and that Felipe Massa will replace the Brazilian as Michael Schumacher's team-mate in 2006. The widely-expected announcement has generated much debate as to the futures of BAR Honda's Jenson Button and Takuma Sato...

Ferrari has confirmed that Rubens Barrichello will leave the team at the end of the year and that Felipe Massa will replace the Brazilian as Michael Schumacher's team-mate in 2006. The widely-expected announcement has generated much debate as to the futures of BAR Honda's Jenson Button and Takuma Sato...


CARtoday.com reported on Tuesday that three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet, BAR sporting director Gil de Ferran, team boss Peter Sauber and even F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone had suggested that Barrichello was destined to leave Ferrari at the end of the year. The Brazilian has been linked to a move to BAR Honda, but the Brackley-based team has yet to confirm the conclusion of (what is believed to be) a two-year contract with Barrichello.


Ferrari's recruitment of Massa isn't a big surprise, however. The Brazilian, who is managed by Ferrari boss Jean Todt's son, Nicholas, was Ferrari's official test driver back in 2003.


Todt, Schumacher 'will not be leaving'


Todt Senior on Tuesday stamped out any rumours that he or Schumacher might also leave the Scuderia at the end of the year.


"I'm not going to retire at the end of the year, neither is Michael, even if it makes some people happy, but we are not going to," the Frenchman was quoted as saying.


The 33-year-old Barrichello is currently one of the candidates to replace Button, whom Williams-BMW boss Frank Williams insists is obliged to race for the Grove-based team next year. Last week, Button offered to personally compensate Sir Frank to the tune of R23,1 million to let him stay at BAR Honda. However, given BAR Honda's poor showing in the 2005 season, the Briton is reportedly contractually bound to race for Williams next year.


Button left to fight own battle


BAR, in turn, has left Button to fight his contract battle with Williams on his own, the team's boss, Nick Fry, said.


"It's between Jenson and Williams, the two contract teams need to sort things out," Fry said. "We'd love to have Jenson here for the long run but we can't really do more than that."


"Clearly from what's been said he has a contract with Williams but it's not one we've any knowledge of and clearly we haven't seen it," Fry added. "It's not really within our control."


In reaction to press reports suggesting that his desire to disregard a 2006 Williams contract showed a lack of "honesty and integrity", Button issued the following statement on Monday.


"A meeting, attended by Button, his manager, Richard Goddard, Sir Frank Williams, as well as Williams personnel Patrick Head, Chris Chapple, Sam Michael, and the team's attorney John Healey, took place in the conference room at Williams' Grove headquarters at 12 o'clock on Tuesday July 12.


"The meeting lasted about 1 hour. During the course of the meeting Sir Frank asked Button a specific question: 'From what you are saying it sounds like you don't want to be here next season.'


'I don't want to be here'


"To this Button replied 'No I don't'," the statement said.


Sir Frank reportedly suggested that a contract between Button and Williams (and there are outstanding questions to its validity) was signed seven months ago (in January this year).


"This is incorrect. There are two documents that are relevant, one dated August 2004, and one dated September 2004.


"Quotes have also been attributed in the media to Sir Frank saying that Williams paid a substantial amount in 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 the payments were quite the opposite. The 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," the statement ended.


F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone and McLaren-Mercedes boss Ron Dennis have argued that Button "should honour his word".


Not a case for public debate - Dennis


"If I try to find a way to resolve a contract," Dennis was quoted as saying, "it is behind closed doors. The negotiation of a mutually agreed settlement is not the subject of public debate."


Meanwhile, Sato, who only secured his first world championship point of the season last weekend, appears to be on the losing end of the rumoured "silly season" driver movements.


BAR boss Fry recently denied talk that Sato's job had "gone already", saying "far from it, but Sato does need to put in decent performances for the rest of the year. The door is still open."


Many believe Sato's position is "protected" by BAR's Japanese engine supplier, Honda, which is a part-owner of the team. However, Fry added: "We've got to have two drivers that can regularly score points, it's as simple as that."