Alex Zanardi has parted company with the Williams team, confirming the rumours which have circulated since before Christmas.

The team formally announced the split late yesterday [Friday], but refused to give much detail either of the separation or the identity of Zanardi's replacement, although it is understood that the Italian may receive a multi-million dollar pay-off following the termination of his contract. The full Williams statement reads as follows:

"Williams and Alex Zanardi announced tonight a joint decision to terminate their Formula One relationship, with the effect that Alex Zanardi will not drive for the BMW Williams team in 2000.

"This decision follows a difficult 1999 season for Alex and Williams. We would like to thank Alex for his efforts for the team in 1999, and wish him every success for the future.

Zanardi's departure makes it ever more likely that either Jenson Button or Bruno Junqueira will drive alongside Ralf Schumacher in the coming season. Both are currently testing for Williams at Barcelona and, despite continuing mechanical problems, should be given another chance to prove themselves tomorrow [Sunday].

The BMW Williams team is due to unveil its 2000 car on Monday, complete with new sponsor and complete driver line-up.