Lewis Hamilton can rip up the record books and win ten Formula One titles, former champion Jenson Button has claimed on the eve of the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton heads into tomorrow’s race on course to take his sixth world title, an achievement which would move him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul. The 34-year-old, who trailed team-mate Valtteri Bottas in practice at Silverstone yesterday, has won six of the opening nine rounds this year to establish a commanding 31-point title lead.
Hamilton has 18 months to run on his £40million-a-year Mercedes deal, but raised the possibility of a move to Ferrari in his last contract talks.
But Button, the 2009 world champion, believes his former McLaren team-mate should resist the lure of a romantic switch to the Scuderia in what could be the final act of the Brit’s remarkable career. “Lewis could end up with ten world championships if he stays at Mercedes, but if he goes to Ferrari it might just be that – the end of his career,” said Button.
“I am sure every driver wants to race for Ferrari, but no driver in their right mind would move from a winning team to a team which is not competitive. It is not like he is not getting paid well. He definitely doesn’t need to worry about that.”
Button became the first team-mate to beat Hamilton over the course of a season in 2011. Hamilton left McLaren at the end of the following campaign to join Mercedes.
Since switching to the Silver Arrows, he has won 57 times, taking his tally to a stunning 79 career triumphs. Hamilton has also won four of the last five championships.
“Lewis seems, in terms of his character, a lot more relaxed now,” added Button, back in the F1 paddock as an analyst for Sky Sports.
“He truly believes in himself and believes that the people are there to help him rather than hinder him.
“I don’t think the scale of his achievement is being taken for granted either. I see him as a five-time world champion. Yes, he has been given the equipment to do it, but his skill shines through.”
Hamilton’s legion of fans will descend on Northamptonshire with a record crowd of more than 140,000 expected to pass through the turnstiles tomorrow. Hamilton’s family are also at Silverstone, including his father, Anthony, who recently revealed that he did not speak to his son for two years after Lewis axed him as his manager in 2010.
The Englishman has triumphed at Silverstone in four of the last five seasons, and Mercedes held the advantage in practice yesterday, with Bottas edging out his team-mate by seven hundredths of a second. The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finished third and fourth.
Vettel has been Hamilton’s closest challenger for the past two years, but he is already 76 points behind his rival.