Despite Jenson Button's failure to defect to Williams-BMW, the Briton and his team boss, David Richards, put up a united front this week... In the meantime, several drivers, including David Coulthard, are hoping to be Mark Webber's team-mate next year.

Despite Jenson Button's failure to defect to Williams-BMW, the Briton and his team boss, David Richards, put up a united front this week... In the meantime, several drivers, including David Coulthard, are hoping to be Mark Webber's team-mate next year.


CARtoday.com reported on Thursday that Formula One's Contract Recognition Board (CRB) had ruled that BAR Honda, not Williams-BMW, held a valid contract with Button for next season.


The young Briton will stay with BAR for 2005, but it's thought he is still aiming to move to Williams-BMW in 2006. Button conceded he was disappointed with the CRB's decision but is determined to continue BAR Honda's good results next season.


"I'm not going to lie, it is a little bit disappointing," he said. "But you can't have everything in life. I think if you look at the last few months, with the difficult situation within the team, we've still been able to have some very good results. I think if we all stay focused for next season we can still have a very good year."


Richards was determined to put the matter to rest, although he conceded that he and his leading driver would need to reconcile their differences: "Probably at the end of the day we've come out stronger as a result of the situation. We'll certainly be more open and frank with each other than we ever have been before".


The BAR boss added that he understood why Button had wanted to leave (the Briton was quoted as saying that Williams-BMW offered him the best chance of winning the title). Richards added that he would prove that BAR could fight for the championship.


"We've got to convince Jenson quite clearly. I say we can. There must be question marks over that, but now we are committed to working together to make sure that happens next year," Richards said.


'I am top of the list' - Pizzonia


Meanwhile, many F1 observers believe Williams-BMW test driver Antonio Pizzonia, who was sacked by Jaguar last season, could be reunited with former team-mate Webber after deputising for the injured Ralf Schumacher in four grands prix this year.


Pizzonia began his F1 career as a test driver at Williams-BMW, impressing then technical chief Patrick Head with his pace and feedback. The Brazilian was hired by Jaguar but, for various reasons, the relationship did not work out and he was fired after last year's British Grand Prix. Williams-BMW, however, reinstated the former British F3 champion to its test team. His capable performances as Ralf's stand-in were said to have positioned him at the head of the list to partner Webber if Button could not.


"All I am guaranteed at the moment is to remain a test driver," Pizzonia said (before the CRB decision was made public). "However, I am waiting to hear about my future. The four races that I did this year were very good for my career, I am at the top of the list to race for Williams next year if Button stays at BAR."


Davidson 'quick', Coulthard 'experienced'


BAR reserve Anthony Davidson and McLaren-Mercedes' David Coulthard were thought to be at the head of the Brackley-based team's list to replace their countryman if required, but could still be contenders for the remaining Williams-BMW seat... Davidson has frequently shown his pace in Friday practices and Coulthard has more than ten years of F1 experience.


"As we speak I don't have a contract to drive in F1 next season," Coulthard said in Sao Paulo, "but clearly there is a drive available at Williams and my credentials are stronger than anyone's out there. I've got pole positions, I've won grands prix, and I've got a lot of experience of developing cars and of tyre development."


"Williams-BMW remains the last competitive seat available. I've got to do everything I can to try and make them realise that I am the best of the drivers available," he added.


Both have been linked to Williams-BMW in 2005, although Head has said that he would be reluctant to re-hire Coulthard. Davidson, presumably, remains a possibility if he can convince the team he is a better prospect than Pizzonia.


The other driver to have been mentioned in connection with a chance of driving for Sir Frank is German Nick Heidfeld, who is understood to have come close to replacing Marc Gene as substitute driver in the middle of the season. The level of financial settlement for Jordan apparently scuppered the deal, but the former F3000 champion remains a prospect for Williams-BMW, although the rumour mill suggests that he may be taken to Grove to fill the testing role vacated by Pizzonia rather than joining the race team.