Jenson Button has questioned whether Carlos Sainz Jr.’s move to McLaren for the 2019 Formula 1 season can be considered a step up, believing it will “take years” before the team is in a position to fight at the front of the field again.

Sainz was announced as one of McLaren’s 2019 drivers over the summer break, replacing the outgoing Fernando Alonso, with his departure from Renault coming in the wake of Daniel Ricciardo’s move from Red Bull to join Nico Hulkenberg.

Button, who raced for McLaren in F1 between 2010 and 2016 before making a one-off appearance in Monaco last year, said that while it seemed to be the right move for Sainz to have made, he could not expect to be competitive immediately.

“Is it stepping up? He was racing for the works Renault team who are performing very well this year,” Button pondered when talking to reporters at last weekend’s Silverstone World Endurance Championship round.

“He’s moving to McLaren. I think he obviously didn’t have the option to race at Renault next year with Daniel moving there. I guess it’s the right decision.

“I don’t think the pace of the car is going to turn around for next year, it’s going to be difficult, because they’ve dropped a long way back.

“It is a big team and it is a team that has won multiple world championships. They will fight their way back, but it’s going to take a little bit of time I think.”

Button said that Sainz would need to make himself as present and involved as possible in the McLaren team as he looks to fill Alonso’s shoes at the team.

"He needs to understand I guess that it’s going to take a few years of working hard and making himself feel present and making his opinion count, and hopefully moving the car forward,” Button said.

“Obviously Fernando’s retired, and he knows what he’s doing. He’s getting the best out of the car pretty much every weekend. It’s always going to be a hard act to follow.

“But they wouldn’t have chosen him if they didn’t think he was worthy.”

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