Jenson Button believes that Lewis Hamilton is placing a delay on extending his Mercedes contract until he knows how competitive the team will be in 2023.
Mercedes endured a difficult 2022 campaign, with Hamilton having the first win-less season of his F1 career.
The seven-time World Champion’s contract expires at the end of the current campaign, but he has asserted that Mercedes’ current slump has motivated him to stay in the sport longer.
However, 2009 title-winner Button, who was team-mates with Hamilton for several years, believes that the Briton is holding out to see how competitive Mercedes is this year before committing.
“It has to be that [wishing to know how competitive Mercedes is this season] right?’, Button said, speaking to the Telegraph.
“Why otherwise would you leave it this late? He knows how annoying we all are asking [about his future].
“I mean, we’ve got to ask the question. But he’s going to hate answering it over and over and over and over again. It can only be because he’s wondering how competitive they will be.
“Is he going to sign if the car is uncompetitive because he wants it to be quick again before he retires? Or is he thinking ‘If it’s not better, I’m just going to retire’. Who knows?”
Hamilton was joined at Mercedes last year by George Russell, who spent several years in its academy before receiving a promotion to the F1 team.
Russell finished ahead of Hamilton in the championship standings, with another close battle between the pair predicted by some for the upcoming season.
Button has hailed the speed of Russell, who spent three seasons with Williams prior to signing with Mercedes.
“I think it’s a great fight,” Button said. “You know, they’re both so talented. One’s obviously got more world championships than anyone else.
“But George, you know, he’s just great, he really is. In terms of his driving, in terms of his engineering skills. I think he’s a great talent.”
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