Lewis Hamilton has sent out a resounding message to his new F1 2010 team-mate Jenson Button – you may have stolen my crown, but I'm still the best driver on the grand prix grid!
It was officially confirmed by multiple world champions McLaren-Mercedes yesterday (Wednesday) that Button has signed to compete alongside Hamilton at Woking next season and beyond on a multi-year deal [see separate story – click here
Many experts have since opined that in jumping ship from the safe and familiar environment of Brawn GP – now Mercedes Grand Prix, and an outfit for whose various guises Button has raced for the majority of his F1 career – the Frome-born ace is entering the lion's den, pitting himself head-to-head as he will be doing against a man considered in many quarters as out-and-out the fastest driver in the field, and one around whom the team has been all-but centred over the past three years.
Whilst there is little doubt that McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh's assurances of parity of both treatment and equipment between the all-British pair are wholeheartedly genuine, psychologically at least, some fear Button will find it difficult to get onto terms with Hamilton, who he succeeded as F1 World Champion this year by dint of a fighting fifth place finish in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos last month.
Despite having notched up barely half the points total of Button in 2009 as McLaren struggled woefully with its aerodynamically-underperforming MP4-24 over the first half of the campaign, Hamilton's latest assertion is hardly the kind of welcome that his countryman will have been hoping for when he inked his new contract.
“I love having No.1 on my car,” the 24-year-old is quoted as having said by the News of the World
, after out-scoring everyone bar Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel during the second half of the year to wind up fifth in the final standings. “I love being recognised as the best driver out there.
“At the end of the season the No.1 was taken off my car, but that doesn't mean anything changes in that sense. I still think I am the best – but I know you can always be better, get more pole positions and win more dominantly. That's what I want to do next season – and get the No.1 back on my car!
“I am still pushing and working as hard as I can to make this team number one again. Last year I knew I had the car, so all I had to do was wake up and prepare myself. I knew everything I contributed to the team was an added bonus – but at the start of this season, I didn't have the car and I had to give a lot of my energy and effort to the team.
“I guess I worked more as a world champion, but when you are world champion you grow to understand what the responsibilities are and you grow as a person. Hopefully, you are seeing some maturity coming through.”