The pair may be good friends away from the race track, but still David Coulthard has precious few words of comfort for Jenson Button at the moment, predicting that if Honda is not saved at the eleventh hour, his fellow Brit's Formula 1 career could be over before he has even reached the age of 30.

The recently-turned 29-year-old's hopes of prolonging his nine-year stint in the top flight now rest solely upon Honda, after the final alternative door closed last week when Scuderia Toro Rosso announced the retention of record-breaking multiple Champ Car king S?bastien Bourdais for a second season at the small Faenza-based squad.

There has been an eerie silence at Brackley of late, however, and with a whole raft of talented and exciting young guns champing at the bit in the junior formulae in order to get their big break, Coulthard fears if Button is not on the starting grid in 2009, he could well be left on the F1 scrapheap for good.

"You cannot say 100 per cent that's the fact," the newly-retired Scot told international news agency Reuters, "but it would be very difficult to imagine, if this doesn't work out, where he goes from there.

"It is a fickle business. The way the sport is now, there are so many young drivers coming through and there are so many opportunities for teams to pick up these guys."

If Honda does succeed in finding a saviour, Coulthard added that Button - who, prior to the shock announcement back in December that the Japanese parent company was withdrawing its support with immediate effect, had inked a new, highly-lucrative three-year deal - would need to re-assess his objectives for the campaign ahead.

The former Hungarian Grand Prix-winner has continued his usual training programme over the winter months, and had been confident of finally bouncing back in 2009, following a brace of seasons spent toiling around towards the back of the pack in distinctly uncompetitive machinery.

"Whereas going into previous years with Honda he was all full of hope and expectation that this could be the year that Honda would step up, he has to take a different view now," underlined the ex-Red Bull Racing star. "He has to now consider himself as driving for a mid-grid, privateer team.

"Whether they can deliver to his expectations or not is more difficult to judge going into this season, and presumably longer-term he has to be looking to try to make a step up to a manufacturer team."

Coulthard did, however, have more words of encouragement for defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, who he tipped for continued glory this year and described as the current benchmark and 'the Schumacher of the modern era'.

"He is two years in Formula 1 and an amazing first two seasons, just dripping in world-class performance," the 13-time grand prix-winner argued. "With the benefit of hindsight it was great he didn't win it (the title) in the first year, because it just made the second year all that more special.

"I think he's just a class act and he will handle it in his own way...I think he will always manage to be quite controlled and is the [Michael] Schumacher of the modern era. He is now the benchmark against which everyone has to be measured."

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