Former Formula One world champion Jenson Button says his old teammate Lewis Hamilton needs “the right car” to return to the front of the grid next season with Red Bull favourites again to clean up in 2024.
For the second year running, Mercedes driver Hamilton failed to win a grand prix as Max Verstappen won 19 of the 22 races with Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez taking two of the other three.
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“Red Bull are going to be at the front again next year,” Button told AFP.
“They had a strong car this year and they’ve been able to work on next year’s car.
“The thing is, if you just look at the results of the race, you go ‘Oh Max Verstappen won again’ but when you actually watch the races, there have been some amazing races this year.
“Max hasn’t had it all his own way. He’s come out on top in the end but there have been some great fights this season.
“I have enjoyed the year. Would I like more people winning? Yes of course. But it’s just not happened.”
Button, who has just announced a return to full-time racing in 2024 with the World Endurance Championship, knows a thing or two about domination having won six of the first seven races in 2009, a start that launched him to the title with Brawn.
And he has an admiration for the single-mindedness with which Verstappen set about his business.
“I think Max has done such an amazing job,” said Button.
“He’s not put a foot wrong. He’s obviously driving a good car, you don’t win without a good car, but you’ve just got to compare him to where his teammate was most races. It’s a big difference.
“Going into 2024, Red Bull are still the favourites but I think the other teams will be a bit closer.
“It’s not going to be easy to beat Max in a Red Bull if his head is in the right place.”
– ‘Definitely good enough’ –
One of those with realistic expectations of challenging Verstappen is seven-time champion Hamilton who will be 39 by the start of next season.
Can he legitimately expect to compete as he did in the thrilling and controversial 2021 title race?
“Lewis wouldn’t race if he didn’t think he wasn’t good enough,” says Button who shared a pit with Hamilton when they were both at McLaren.
“Lewis is definitely good enough to win races and to win a championship — with the right car.
“Coming up against Max is difficult but if Lewis is in a car that suits him and Max is in a car that suits him… I look forward to that fight.
“Hopefully we will see it before Lewis retires, he’s definitely got the ability to do that.”
Button, 43, will contest the full programme of eight races, including Le Mans, in the World Endurance Championship in the Hypercar category with Hertz Team JOTA driving a Porsche 963.