2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button has indicated that Max Verstappen may need to race outside of the series if he is to be considered the greatest driver.
Button took part in the 24 Hours of Spa in 1999 and, after his 17-year F1 spell came to an end in 2016, he returned to endurance racing.
The 15-time F1 race winner contested the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018 having come back to F1 for a one-off appearance at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, and he is in the infamous French race again this weekend with the Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR entry.
He tried his hand in the NASCAR cup series earlier this year alongside Kimi Raikkonen, who himself has sporadically taken part in American stock racing and rallying during a career that saw him win the F1 title in 2007.
Verstappen has won the title in each of the last two years and currently leads the way in 2023. The first of his 40 wins in the pinnacle of motorsport arrived in Barcelona seven years ago at just 18 years old.
The Dutchman is already widely recognised as one of the greatest racing drivers in the world, but Button thinks there is something in the argument that F1 drivers need to prove themselves elsewhere to go down as greats.
“There’s every possibility that Max [Verstappen] could go down as the greatest but I like the idea that you can’t be the best driver in the world if you haven’t stepped outside of F1,” he told The Times.
Button, Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve and Mario Andretti are just a few names in a copious list of F1 drivers who have transcended the sport and raced in alternative series or disciplines.
Button used his former McLaren team-mate Alonso, who currently races with Aston Martin in F1, as an example of a driver who has succeeded elsewhere and displayed notable longevity.
“Fernando has done a phenomenal job,” added the 43-year-old. “He left F1 and came and raced in Le Mans and Daytona, won both, then won Le Mans again. I don’t think his performance has dropped away in his forties.”