David Coulthard believes Jenson Button could be a “casualty” of the business side of F1 when McLaren make their driver decision on Thursday.
The Woking team’s annual board meeting takes place on Thursday at which time McLaren’s 2015 driver line-up will be debated.
While Fernando Alonso is expected to take the one seat, it is between Button and Kevin Magnussen for the second.
And Coulthard fears Button, despite beating his rookie team-mate in 2014, may lose due to the financial side of the sport.
“If you just look at results then Jenson is the guy who should be in that seat next year,” the Scot told the Daily Mail.
“He has outperformed and outscored his team-mate and that has nothing to do with personality or his nationality. But unfortunately for Jenson, the business of Formula One is what funds the sport so he may well be a casualty.
“I don’t know this for a fact, but there are all sorts of behind-the-scenes shareholding wrangling which is all about funding.
“I believe some of the partners already involved with McLaren are Danish companies so they are going to be supportive of Kevin.
“He is a nice lad and has a bright future ahead of him, but Jenson has got a lot of public support. He is a well-known, recognisable, likeable face, an asset to Formula One and to McLaren.”
The former F1 driver added that McLaren’s handling of Button and the driver situation as a whole had not covered the team in glory.
“McLaren are in a public sport and the heroes of the sport are the drivers.
“They are still the ones that get the public support because they humanise the raw dream of being able to drive a grand prix car. With that in mind I can’t help but think it hasn’t been McLaren’s best year of PR.
“The occasion of life and sport is that it is not like Jenson can come back in Melbourne and blow everyone a kiss. We have all moved on.
“It would be easy to drop a one liner and say it is not right, but if you are a rational individual then you have to look at the bigger picture.
“Did he deserve to be treated with a little bit more respect given his time in the sport? Yes, I certainly think that is a valid argument.”