Jenson Button believes Lewis Hamilton is waiting to see how competitive the W14 is before putting pen to paper on his future.
Hamilton enters 2023 in the final year of his contract but before the winter period, there was every expectation that a new deal between him and Mercedes would be announced over the off season.
And yet, just a few days out from the first race in Bahrain, Hamilton’s future remains a mystery with Toto Wolff stating during the Mercedes launch event that he had had the “first chat” with the seven-time World Champion about an extension.
While there is little reason to fear for Mercedes fans, one of the Brit’s former team-mates believes Hamilton is waiting to see how competitive the W14 is before agreeing an extension.
“It has to be that (wanting to know how competitive they are this season) right?’, Button told the Telegraph.
“Why otherwise would you leave it this late? He knows how annoying we all are asking [about the contract].
“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.”
Hamilton suffered his worst season to date in 2022, ending winless for the first time, and while there are signs the W14 is an improvement over its predecessor, testing would suggest the Silver Arrows remain behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
“Is he going to sign if the car is uncompetitive because he wants it to be quick again before he retires?” Button pondered.
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“Or is he thinking ‘If it’s not better, I’m just going to retire.’ Who knows?'”
Should Hamilton extend his deal, it will see him racing at the age of 39 with only Fernando Alonso older than him on the current grid.
Hamilton’s first task this season though is to beat his team-mate George Russell who got the better of him in 2022 despite being in his first year at the team.
Button described their relationship as “a great fight” and said Russell was strong not just at driving but also the engineering side of things as well.
“I think it’s a great fight,” the 2009 World Champion 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.”