Jenson Button has confirmed that there are few escape routes for team-mate Lewis Hamilton should he be thinking of severing his ties with the McLaren team at the end of the current F1 season.
Hamilton has been at the centre of 'silly season' rumours for much of the season, despite being the better-placed of the two McLaren drivers and still in with a realistic shot at a second world championship title. Bouncing back from a troubled 2011 campaign, the 2008 champion sits alongside Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber as the only drivers to have won more than once in the first eleven races of the year, but, with McLaren having potentially thrown away some equally good results over the same period, there has been some doubt whether he wants to remain onboard beyond the end of his existing five-year deal.
However, with Webber re-signing with Red Bull for another season and old rival Alonso the incumbent at Ferrari - which is likely to ship Felipe Massa for 2013 - there aren't too many top seats available for next season. Mercedes remains one possibility for Hamilton, but only if Michael Schumacher decides to hang up his helmet for a second time, and Button believes that his fellow Briton will ultimately opt to stay put.
"I think so - I don't know what options he has," he told Brazil's TotalRace
website, "I don't think it's Ferrari and nobody knows if Michael is going to be at Mercedes or not. It would be a big change for [Hamilton] to move on.
"Lewis got to enter F1 with a team that gave him opportunities to win races and fight for championships and, while he might not have the chance to be champion every year, the team gives him the conditions to fight for victories every year. When you've got that, it's very difficult to go somewhere else and try to build a winning team."
Button, of course, left the team that took him to his own title in order to take the number one plate to McLaren, but admits that, in his opinion, it would not necessarily be the best thing for Hamilton.
"Some drivers, like myself, needed to do this but, once you're in a team like this, you don't want to look back."
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has already claimed that Hamilton wants to re-sign with McLaren [see separate story
], although the driver has admitted that there could be sticking points in negotiations, particularly as he insists on being able to retain the trophies he wins [see separate story
]. With the season resuming at Spa this weekend, it would appear that no agreement has yet been reached.