Williams chiefs admit they “need a driver like” Jenson Button in 2017 – but have warned the Brit there are “lots of drivers available.”
Button has been linked with a return to Williams – whom he started his Formula One career with in 2000 – as he is out of contract at the end of the season, and McLaren already have Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings and Fernando Alonso signed up for another year.
Felipe Massa is expected to depart the Grove team which could open the door for Button, although chairman Ron Dennis remains adamant they won’t be talking about their driver line-up until September or October.
And deputy team principal Claire Williams told the Press Association: “We will own our driver line-up decision, and I am not sat here waiting for Ron Dennis to make his decision or for Jenson to make his decision.
“It it is not about what other people are doing. I am not going to be waiting around because that is just not the right mentality for a team like ours to have.
“It would be a great story, but he has to make the right choice for him, and we have to make the right choice for the team. He is a great talent in the car, but also outside of the car and we need a driver like him.”
The outfit are also keen to retain Renault-target Valteri Bottas for a fifth season, while they have been linked with Force India’s Sergio Perez.
“Sergio has done a great job this year, he is an intelligent driver, and of course he is going to be someone we are looking at,” Williams added.
“I have only met him briefly on the odd occasion. He is very charming. He is very eloquent, so commercially he would be strong for any team. Of course he is going to be someone you’d consider if he is available.”