Even after the unseemly two-year tug of war for his services, Sir Frank Williams says he would still welcome Jenson Button back into his team.
”If Father Christmas ever delivers Jenson to (us) gift-wrapped,” the team principal told the Guardian newspaper in Britain, ”I’d be delighted.”
Williams plucked Button, then a teenager, out of F3 at the end of 1999 and gave him his grand prix debut.
In the debate about whether JB – now a works Honda driver – can ever win races and championships, Frank is adamant.
”There is no doubt in my mind that (he has) the ability. He almost never makes a mistake … and is almost in Michael Schumacher’s class when it comes to sheer all-round talent.”
Williams, whose comments about Button were also echoed by 1996 world champion Damon Hill this week, insists that the ‘Button-gate’ saga is now behind him.
And he said: ”I would like to think that Jenson feels the same way although I’m sure he thinks that we drove a hard bargain.”
At the end of 2000, Williams plumped for Juan Pablo Montoya over Button, who is now 26. At his new home, Benetton/Renault, he then struggled.
And, now after more than 100 grands prix, Button is still yet to win even a single grand prix.
Triple world champion Niki Lauda, then, does not think Button has what it takes to win the title.
”My other judgment is that both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are fundamentally quicker than Jenson,” said the veteran Austrian, who also noted that teammate Rubens Barrichello is now starting to get the upper hand.
Lauda said: ”Even if Jenson was driving something like the current Renault I would still have my doubts.”