In seeking to leave his team for Williams, Jenson Button was “extremely badly advised,” according to former BAR manager David Richards.
In the beginning of his F1 career, Button made a number of changes and attempted to make another by returning to Williams for 2005 and originally for 2006, but each time, contractual issues occurred.
The British driver made his Formula One debut with Williams in 2000, however he only stayed there for one season before joining Benetton, which was then renamed as Renault for 2002.
Button attempted to return to Williams after spending two seasons with BAR, but the F1 Contract Recognition Board ultimately decided to prohibit the move.
Button pre-signed with Williams for the 2006 season, but during the 2005 campaign, he made the decision that it would be preferable for him to remain at BAR. Williams released Button in exchange for alleged compensation of roughly £18 million when more disagreements arose regarding the contract’s legality.
BAR evolved into Honda and after that, Brawn, with whom Button shared the 2009 World Championship. After retirement, he reconnected with Williams by joining the team as a senior advisor.
After an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin Williams at the end of 2004, Button changed the makeup of his management team, despite Richards’ continued insistence, over 18 years later, that the driver, who was 24 at the time, had not been receiving adequate coaching.
On the Beyond the Grid podcast, Richards said, “I look back and Jenson, as a rookie racing driver – so often is the case and he more than most, I would say – was really ill advised and influenced by management.”
“He was surrounded by self-centered managers. They didn’t consider him first, and they didn’t consider the big picture. I frequently witness drivers who have lost their path or missed out on significant possibilities because they trusted management who did not always have their best interests in mind and held different opinions.
“You depend on your managers, lawyers, and other close associates to make important decisions for you. However, if they lack professionalism, competence, and suitable behavior, you wind yourself in a big problem, like we did back then.
Richards said that Button’s representatives had not been consulted over their efforts to orchestrate the Williams move, with the debate focusing on the validity of a retention option BAR had based on the availability of Honda engines.
The 70-year-old Welshman continued, “There was no correspondence, no conversation whatever. However, we obviously did not accept it, and we found ourselves in the F1 contract arbitration court. And it’s obvious that we won since the case was invalid.
Richards’ response when asked if the circumstance had affected his friendship with Button was, “I believe it did at the time. When we see each other now, we are actually quite good friends. These things undoubtedly make you feel a little tempted, but I entirely blame the management. He changed managers after I disconnected the management.