Jenson Button's 153-race Formula 1 career - which has hung precariously in the balance since Honda announced that it was pulling the plug on its grand prix team at the end of last week - could be thrown a lifeline by Scuderia Toro Rosso, it has been claimed.

Unless the big-budget Japanese manufacturer is successful in finding a buyer for its Brackley-based concern by January, Button will be left without a seat in the top flight for the first time since he made his debut with Williams back in 2000.

'Talks to undo' the new ?8 million-a-year, three-year deal that he had recently signed with the squad, Honda President Takeo Fukui has revealed, will now be instigated at the Briton's request - earning him a handsome ?15 million pay-off.

"If Jenson gets an opportunity we will sit down and see what the situation here is and what opportunity he has got," team principal Ross Brawn told UK newspaper the News of the World.

"If we can keep him here we will be delighted, but we also understand that it is very difficult for a Formula 1 driver to miss a season - unlike engineers. If the team gets shut down, I'll go fishing. That's my favourite hobby anyway."

Button is understood to be angry that his continuing loyalty to the underperforming outfit has now left him potentially on the sidelines - and his F1 career in serious threat. Though he has already been to Brackley to give his support to the team's beleaguered 750-strong workforce and has admitted that 'the process of absorbing the news will continue for some days', the 28-year-old is adamant that his overwhelming priority now is to ensure that he is on the starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March.

"I want to race in Formula 1," he told the Daily Express. "I am happy to listen to anybody who will give me the opportunity to do so, whatever the cost."

"Jenson is still shell-shocked," added a close friend, talking to the News of the World. "He really thought he could be fighting for wins in the next few years as the new car had a lot of promise.

"That's why he was happy to commit to Honda even though there was interest from other teams, but now that could cost him the chance of a drive in 2009 which would be devastating."

It is understood that following Honda's bombshell on Friday, Button was approached by Red Bull 'junior' concern STR, and flying in the face of Dietrich Mateschitz's insistence that the news 'will have no impact on the choice of Toro Rosso's pilots' for 2009 [see separate story - click here], it has been suggested the former Hungarian Grand Prix winner could now be offered a test in one of the Faenza-based squad's cars at Jerez this week.

Team principal Franz Tost worked with Button during the Frome-born ace's maiden campaign in F1 eight years ago, and an STR source claimed: "He would not need to do an audition."

F1SA also quotes recently-departed STR co-owner Gerhard Berger as stating that Button 'has always been an interesting man', whilst Honda's withdrawal would seem to have drawn a permanent line under 2008 team-mate Rubens Barrichello's long and successful grand prix career after 16 seasons and a record-breaking 267 starts, even if the Brazilian has similarly been linked to a possible role at Toro Rosso.


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