Jenson Button says Lewis Hamilton is still “hungry” to win another Formula 1 World Championship and expects him to stay put at Mercedes for the 2024 season.
Hamilton’s contract runs out at the end of the year but both the Brit and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff have repeatedly issued they intend to get an extension sorted.
But no deal has been agreed yet and speculation has continuously mounted that Hamilton could elect to walk away with Mercedes off the pace again this year.
However, Button, who partnered Hamilton at McLaren for three seasons between 2010-2012, believes his former team-mate is desperate to win a record-breaking eighth World Championship and expects he will pen a new contract with Mercedes.
“I don’t think Lewis is going to walk away from the sport,” he said. “I think as a racing driver, you have two things. One is you’re winning for so long and then you’re suddenly not, you want to fight back to winning. So you’re not going to retire.
“And then you can come at it the other way. If you’ve been in a in a bad car, you want to retire. If you’ve been there for many years in a bad car. Because it just gets you down.
“Lewis is not in a bad car. He’s in a car that’s not as good as what he’s used to. I get that. But I think he knows the strength of the team, he knows how quick he is still, so I think he’s going to work with this team to get back to fighting with Red Bull. And I think they will.
“It probably won’t be this year, but 2024, I think we’ll see Lewis Hamilton on the grid. I think he’s still hungry. He’s still hungry to win another world championship.”
Having joined the McLaren young driver programme in 1998, Hamilton was promoted to a race seat with the Woking outfit alongside reigning double World Champion Fernando Alonso for 2007.
The Stevenage-born racer surprised many, including the Spaniard, with his breathtaking speed and assured consistency as a rookie to come within a whisker of sealing the title in his debut year.
With Alonso departing after a solitary acrimonious year, Hamilton righted the wrongs of the previous campaign to become World Champion for the first time in 2008, breaking the hearts of the Brazilian locals as he took the title from Felipe Massa’s grasp on the final lap at Interlagos.
But following McLaren’s inability to get it right over the next four frustrating years, Hamilton packed his bags and made the shock move to Mercedes for 2013, where he has since added six Drivers’ titles to match the legendary Michael Schumacher at the pinnacle of the sport.
The Briton also surpassed the German for the most pole positions and race wins in F1 history, edging the benchmark number for both over the three-digit mark.
Hamilton was set to eclipse Schumacher to stand alone at the top on eight World Championships as he led the final round of 2021 in Abu Dhabi by a comfortable margin over title rival Max Verstappen.
However, a controversial decision by the FIA race director Michael Masi to allow the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen through during a late Safety Car period culminated in the Red Bull driver overtaking the Mercedes on the final lap once the race resumed to claim the grand prize.
With the overhaul to the technical regulations the following year witnessing Mercedes fall from the top of the order for the first time since the V6 turbo-hybrid engines were introduced in 2014, Hamilton failed to score a pole position or a win over a full season for the first time in his F1 career in 2022.
Opting to retain faith in its zero sidepod concept for this year, Mercedes failed to make a big enough step over the winter to challenge the dominant Red Bull side, leading Wolff to declare at the first race weekend of the season the Brackley squad needs to revise its car philosophy.
Although Mercedes has struggled in the early stages of 2023 with a capricious car package, Hamilton has remained in good form and registered the German marque’s sole podium finish with a second-place finish in Australia.