Williams Formula 1 deputy team principal Claire Williams says she “would have loved” to have signed Jenson Button for the 2017 season before the Briton signed a new deal with McLaren.
Button made his F1 debut with Williams back in 2000, and was linked with a return to the British team for 2017 upon the expiration of his McLaren contract.
Over the Italian Grand Prix weekend, current Williams driver Felipe Massa confirmed he would be retiring from F1 at the end of the season, freeing up a seat at the team.
However, Button announced with McLaren the next day that he had signed a new two-year deal that will see him work as the team’s reserve driver and ambassador in 2017, allowing Stoffel Vandoorne to step up into a race seat.
Speaking to British broadcaster Sky Sports, Williams admitted that the team had been interested in bringing Button back for 2017.
“Everyone knows that we were quite interested in Jenson,” Williams said.
“Why wouldn’t you be? He’s a great talent and would be a great driver for anyone to have in their team.
“The announcement is a real shame for the sport and comes off the back of Felipe. 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.
“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.”
Williams is currently mulling over its options for 2017 and is at the heart of the driver market. Valtteri Bottas is expected to continue, but a number of drivers have been linked with the second seat.
Rising star Lance Stroll looks set to clinch the FIA F3 title and has ties to Williams that make him a contender, while current Sauber F1 driver Felipe Nasr has also been named as a candidate for the seat.
Should Williams want a British driver, current development driver Alex Lynn may be an option, his availability still open after failing to land a Formula E seat with Jaguar earlier this month.