Jenson Button believes Mercedes will be Red Bull’s biggest rivals in 2024, and says that Sir Lewis Hamilton is ‘even better now than he was five years ago’.
We’re less than two months away from the start of the new Formula One season and Max Verstappen is the early favourite to win a fourth consecutive title after his near-perfect 2023 campaign.
Red Bull will likely produce another brilliant car for him but Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin are tipped to make a big leap forward this year which should at least make for a tighter competition.
The four teams all brought the fight to Red Bull at various points last season, and 2009 champion Jenson Button has made an early prediction of who will challenge the reigning champions this year.
‘Mercedes. When you look at the last 10 years in the sport, it’s Mercedes and Red Bull, so it would be Mercedes,’ the former McLaren and Brawn driver told Sky Sports.
‘I would love to say Ferrari, I would love to have them in the mix. You could say they were the closest competitor especially towards the end of the season, but I think Mercedes will have a good improvement [for 2024]. Whether it’s enough, I don’t know.
‘There are some seriously strong driver line-ups. The young guns at McLaren, super strong. Oscar [Piastri] with a year under his belt, he’ll have more consistency going into the 2024 season.
‘He had glimpses of greatness obviously but then consistency just wasn’t there, I think he ended up with less than half the points of Lando [Norris]. But coming into a second season he’s got that under his belt, I think he’ll be competitive. So those two drivers will definitely push McLaren forward a bit as well.’
Hamilton was the best non-Red Bull driver last season, with the seven-time champion looking back to his best at times despite not being able to end his win-less streak.
Button spent three years racing alongside the Brit at McLaren, and believes the 39-year-old may now be a stronger driver now than he was during his title-winning peak.
‘When you’ve won for so many years and then suddenly that’s taken away from you, it can work in two different ways,’ he added.
‘One, you are just like, “well, there’s no point anymore, I want to retire, I’ve been at the peak for so long and now I’ve not won a race in two years”. But also it can make you more hungry to get back to that, and Lewis is in that position right now I think.
‘Lewis is as good as ever I would say in terms of his outright speed, but also now he seems much more comfortable in himself and confident in his ability, so he makes fewer mistakes. So he’s even better now than he was five or six years ago.
‘That’s tough [for his rivals]. If he gets a car that’s competitive enough to fight for victories, when someone’s that strong and that confident in themselves it’s difficult to beat, as you can see with Max Verstappen right now.’
The 2024 F1 season gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix on 2nd March.
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