Hamilton’s current contract runs out at the end of the year, with talks ongoing with Toto Wolff about remaining with the team.

Red Bull look incredibly FAST this season | F1 2023

For the first time in his F1 career, Hamilton went winless through an entire campaign in 2022 as he slumped to his worst finish in the drivers’ championship.

Looking ahead to F1 2023, Mercedes don’t appear to be in better shape than they were at the end of last season, with a significant gap expected to Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

Button - who was Hamilton’s F1 teammate at McLaren between 2010 and 2012 - believes the delay over a new deal is due to potential concerns about Mercedes’ competitiveness for the new season.

“It has to be that right?” Button told The Telegraph. “Why otherwise would you leave it this late? He knows how annoying we all are asking [about the contract]. I mean, we’ve got to ask the question. 

“But he’s going to hate answering it over and over and over and over again. It can only be because he's wondering how competitive they will be.

 “Is he going to sign if the car is uncompetitive because he wants it to be quick again before he retires?” he added. “Or is he thinking 'If it's not better, I'm just going to retire.' Who knows?”

In 2022, Hamilton was out-scored by George Russell - this is only the third time Hamilton has been beaten by a teammate in the championship standings.

Button is expecting another close fight between the two Mercedes drivers in 2023.

“I think it's a great fight,” he added. “You know, they're both so talented. One’s obviously got more world championships than anyone else. But George, you know, he's just great, he really is. In terms of his driving, in terms of his engineering skills. I think he's a great talent.

“First year, it's easy because there's no real pressure on your shoulders. Nobody expects you to beat Lewis Hamilton. But second year in, it's like ‘Now we're gonna see what you can do.’ So I’m looking forward to watching that. They’re both hopefully going to be fighting for wins.”