Ex-Formula One champion Jenson Button is not writing off his ex-teammate Lewis Hamilton this season, insisting that his compatriot has 'not lost it' despite his Mercedes woes.
Hamilton finished outside the points last time out in Imola and the seven-time champion has finished behind teammate George Russell in each of the last three races, with his partner maintaining top-five finishes in each of the four races this term.
Mercedes' poor car performance and Hamilton's inability to get the best out of his drives has raised questions as to whether the legendary driver is past his best and whether he could soon depart the grid, having been agonisingly beaten by Red Bull's Max Verstappen to the title last season. However, Button has warned against that sort of belief and his backing his former teammate to bounce back in the upcoming races.
“He’s had a couple of bad races, we all have it in our career. At the moment he’s finding it tough, and people are saying he’s not doing as good a job as his teammate. He’s not lost it since last season when he was winning races. He’s a seven-time world champion — almost eight — he will keep fighting as long as he wants to," he told the New York Post.
“If he wants to be competitive, he will be competitive. He’s so important to that team, he has so much experience, and he knows how to develop a car. It’s unusual for a lot of guys on the team, it’s the first time they haven’t been winning,” Button added. “[But] it’s going to be good for their careers. You need to lose sometimes, it strengthens you as a person, you learn a lot as well.”
Mercedes are looking to improve in the upcoming races, with a new upgrade package in the works and being introduced for Miami, although the general expectation is that the team won't be able to reap the rewards until the double-header later this month in Barcelona and Monaco.
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For now, all eyes will be on Miami as the venue is set to host its maiden Grand Prix and the first of two races in the United States this season, with Austin later on the calendar, while the number of US races will increase to three in 2023 with the introduction of Las Vegas, and Button is expecting big things this weekend.
“It’s going to be the new best race in F1. I know that’s a big thing to say, poor Monaco. There’s so much excitement around this race, and Miami is such a fun city. It’s going to be a mad weekend.”
The introduction of Miami is part of a record-breaking 23-race season for Formula One, assuming the cancelled Russian Grand Prix is replaced on the schedule as expected, though that figure could be surpassed next year with more races on the calendar.
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