Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to former team-mate and fellow British driver Jenson Button ahead of his sabbatical year away from competing in Formula 1.
The Mercedes driver, who partnered Button as team-mates between 2010-2012 at McLaren, says he used to look up to his fellow countryman as he made strides towards F1 during his teenage years while Button rose to prominence in the sport with Honda, Renault and Benetton.
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While competing on track against one another since Hamilton made his F1 debut in 2007, the pair have grown a mutual respect for one another with the defending F1 world champion sharing a small celebration at Button's 300th Grand Prix start at Sepang two weeks ago.
“He's been a great driver for many, many years. A great asset to Formula One, he's contributed a lot,” Hamilton said of the 2009 F1 world champion. “I remember sitting at home watching him in his first grand prix, I was still in high school hoping one day that would be me and it's kind of crazy now that we are both here.”
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Button is set to take a year sabbatical from racing in F1, with Stoffel Vandoorne taking his place in the McLaren driver line-up for 2017 alongside Fernando Alonso, and Hamilton says F1 will lose out missing the 36-year-old's presence in the paddock.
“I'm going to be living through him next year as he is on vacation, enjoying all there is to enjoy outside of the racing world for the whole year,” he said. “He will be missed but one day all you guys will be gone and somebody else will take your spot, same with me and life will move on. It's just the way it is. He'll move on to bigger and better things and continue to grow.”
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