The saga of Alpine F1 and Oscar Piastri in recent days is reminiscent of another case of the same type, the one involving Jenson Button, Williams and BAR. A different situation to that of the Australian and Enstone’s team, but which had had a certain impact at the time.
After an F1 debut with Williams and a stint with Benetton-Renault, Jenson Button joined BAR in 2003. But in 2005 the Brit tried to return to Williams, which was blocked by BAR’s contractual advantage -Honda.
David Richards, who ran the BAR at the time, took the matter to the Contracts Recognition Board, which ruled in favor of the team against Williams. Consequently, Button stayed with BAR, which became Honda in 2006 and then Brawn GP in 2009, with the success we know.
In 2006, Button was due to join Williams after signing a pre-contract during the 2005 season, but the driver himself decided not to go to Grove. In exchange for compensation of around $20 million, Williams agreed to leave Button at BAR.
According to Richards, it was Jenson Button’s management that raised the issue at the time, making empty promises to his driver. Button had also changed direction amid these contractual matters.
“I look back and Jenson, as a young racing driver, was very badly advised and influenced by management. That often happens to young drivers, and it was especially the case with him. Richards said on the Beyond the Grid podcast. “I was surrounded by management that was interested.”
“They didn’t think about him first, or the whole situation. I’ve seen it many times, drivers who lost their way or great opportunities because they trusted leaders who didn’t really have their best interests at heart and had different opinions. the things”.
“You rely on lawyers, managers and people around you to make big decisions for you. But if they’re not professional and competent and don’t behave appropriately, you end up in a big mess, as we knew it then.”
Is the person in charge of Button to blame?
Richards reveals that Button’s entourage never contacted BAR to explain the situation and try to resolve the issue amicably: “There was no conversation, no correspondence of any kind.”
“But obviously we didn’t take it lightly and we ended up in the F1 Contract Arbitration Tribunal. And we won the case clearly, it was completely flawed.”
Richards saw his relationship with Button as sour at the time, but the two later buried the hatchet: “I guess that was the case at the time.”
“Now we’re good friends when we see each other. Obviously these things temper you a little bit, but I totally blame the management. I cut ties with his management and then he changed managers.”
A statement from Richards that has to be related to what is happening at the moment in Alpine, or even in IndyCar, where Chip Ganassi Racing and Alex Palou have mutual legal proceedings underway.
The breaks that this type of maneuvering operates within the teams, and between the people involved, shows that the return to normality could be difficult, if by chance Alpine wins. The relationship between Otmar Szafnauer and his pilot would not necessarily be the healthiest…