Claire Williams has admitted that she would have loved to bring Jenson Button back to Williams – the team where the McLaren driver began his Formula One career. The 2009 world champion announced that he will be taking a one-year sabbatical from driving in the sport ahead of the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday (4 September).
Button has agreed a new two-year deal with McLaren-Honda but will be an ambassador of the team in 2017, but could return in a racing capacity in 2018. The Woking-based team have decided to partner Fernando Alonso with Stoffel Vandoorne, but the British driver has decided to accept the unique offer from his current employers rather than drive for another team.
Williams were keen to bring Button to replace Felipe Massa, who also announced his retirement in Italy, but could not agree a deal after the 2009 world champion made it clear that he would drive for any other team. The Williams deputy team principal is keen to fulfil her dream of having a British driver in a British team, but was unable to convince the former Benetton and Brawn GP driver to join the Grove-based team.
"Everyone knows that we were quite interested in Jenson - and why wouldn't you be? He's a great talent and he would be a great driver for anyone to have in their team," Williams told Sky Sports F1.
"Saturday's announcement is a real shame for the sport and comes off the back of Felipe [Massa announcing his retirement].
"We're losing two great drivers from the sport, legends. I would have loved to have Jenson in this team, but unfortunately it didn't work out. I wish him all the best," the Williams deputy team principal added.
"I would have loved to have seen him in Williams...a British driver in a British team has been a dream of mine. You never know, one day."