Jenson Button: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen must leave F1 to be considered all-time greats

Thomas Maher
Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023. Jenson Button

Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023

2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button is eager to see Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s achievements away from Formula 1.

While both Hamilton and Verstappen have already made their mark in F1 to become two of the sport’s most successful drivers, Jenson Button believes the duo both need to have achievements outside of F1 to underline their status as two of the best drivers in the world.

Button is gearing up to take part in his second Le Mans 24 Hours as he drives alongside seven-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson and DTM Champion Mike Rockenfeller in the Garage56 Hendrick Motorsports entry, driving a modified Chevy Camaro ZL1 Cup.

Neither Hamilton nor Verstappen are yet to take part in any top-level motorsport outside of F1, although the Dutch driver frequently takes part in high-profile sim races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual.

But Button would like to see the drivers take on challenges outside of F1 in order to solidify their positions as the best drivers in the world.

“There’s every possibility that Max [Verstappen] could go down as the greatest,” Button told the UK Times.

“But I like the idea that you can’t be the best driver in the world if you haven’t stepped outside of F1.” recommends

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Button pointed to how Alonso has moved away from F1 to take on, and win, Le Mans twice, while a Triple Crown attempt may come again if Alonso steps back to IndyCar after F1.

“Fernando has done a phenomenal job,” he said.

“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.”

Hamilton has previously made it clear he has no interest in taking part in any racing outside of Formula 1, ruling himself out of ever taking on Le Mans.

“I don’t have any desires to do any other racing,” Hamilton said. “By the time l stop it could be 30 years. Everything else is a step down the ladder.

“There is no other racing series that l have any desire to drive – which is a shame. I wish l had more passion to do an IndyCar or a Le Mans. But there is zero, there is nothing. I have more exciting things outside which l am passionate about.”

But Max Verstappen is likely to eventually take part in the prestigious 24-hour endurance event, perhaps with his father Jos, with the two-time World Champion having indicated his interest in endurance racing, although ruled out any chance of him ever racing in IndyCar or the Indy 500.

Jenson Button: “No regrets” over leaving F1

With former teammate and contemporary Alonso still proving his competitiveness as a racer with Aston Martin in 2023, Button was asked whether he felt any sadness at what might have been had he stayed on in F1 longer than when he retired at the end of 2016 (aside from a one-off appearance replacing Alonso in 2017).

“No, definitely not,” Button said.

“I had different ideas. I started a family and I don’t want to miss them all the time and they feel like their dad isn’t around.

“Motor racing can be very stressful. That’s why I retired from F1 because I felt like I had nothing new left to learn. I wanted to do things I enjoyed. That’s why I’m at Le Mans.”