Jenson Button says he feels sympathy towards Lance Stroll and reckons the youngster “100 per cent” deserves to be racing in Formula 1.
Stroll has competed in Formula 1 since 2017 and for 2019 moved to the renamed Racing Point team that was acquired mid-2018 by father, Lawrence.
Stroll struggled to match Sergio Perez last season but has started the 2020 campaign strongly and holds fifth in the Drivers’ Championship, amassing 40 points across the opening six rounds.
Racing Point is understood to be in discussions with Sebastian Vettel for 2021 and should negotiations conclude successfully then Perez is set to make way.
“I really feel for Lance, because it is not an easy position to be in,” Button told the Australian Grand Prix podcast In The Fast Lane.
“He knows what people think of him – he’s the gifted driver that his Dad has basically bought a team for him.
“In one way you can say he’s so lucky but I don’t think he’s lucky at all.
“I feel for the guy, because there’s so much pressure put on him, and everyone thinks he is in Formula 1 because of his father.
“But he’s achieved – he won everything on the way through to Formula 1, he’s put in some fantastic results and drives, in Barcelona he finished fourth, he beat Checo, he did a great job, and he has many times.
“The consistency isn’t there, whether he’s enjoying it himself or not I don’t know, it’s very difficult to tell with Lance, but he 100 per cent deserves to be in Formula 1.
“Has he had more opportunities than others? Yes, but I think that’s put more pressure on him, so fair play to him.”
Button nonetheless had high praise for Perez, who he raced alongside at McLaren during the 2013 season.
“When we were team-mates he wasn’t the most consistent, some races he would just arrive and Bahrain he was so fast,” he said.
“I don’t know if he understood why he was so fast. But other circuits that didn’t suit his style really hurt him, like Shanghai, where it is front-limited.
“He had a very unusual driving style that suited some tracks. I don’t know if that’s still the case but he is extremely quick, a real fighter, he’s grown as a driver, he’s confident in his ability, he understands the bigger picture, it’s a long season.
“We saw that in Austria, a couple of moves people made on him he gave up quite quickly but I think it was the right thing to do. He’s thinking about points.”