'This is brave' – Jenson Button gives his verdict on Hamilton's blockbuster Ferrari move
Jenson Button has hailed Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave Mercedes for Ferrari as a “brave” one, with the former F1 driver also suggesting that the shock move is “great for the sport”.
It was announced on Thursday that Hamilton will join the Scuderia in 2025 on a multi-year contract, meaning that he will part ways with Mercedes after 12 years together and multiple world championships.
When asked for his thoughts on Hamilton’s switch during a discussion on Sky Sports, Button admitted he was “surprised”.
“This is massive for the sport,” the 2009 world champion said. “If Lewis stayed at Mercedes, if they won races next year or didn’t win races, it would have been good. But having this shift to Ferrari, it’s massive.
“I think it’s great for the sport. Everyone’s going to have their eyes on Formula 1, especially Ferrari and Lewis, but also how he does up against Charles Leclerc, who has the contract [for 2025] so I’m guessing he’s the one that’s going to be alongside Lewis at Ferrari. It’s a big deal making this change in your career when you’ve been with one team for so long – to suddenly jump into someone else’s team, it’s tough, so fair play to Lewis. It’s a toughie.”
With Hamilton having previously re-committed to the Silver Arrows last summer by signing a deal that would take him through 2025 – which has subsequently been cut short as Hamilton activated a release option in the contract – the news has taken many by surprise. But in terms of why he has opted to do this now, Button believes that Hamilton may have felt ready for a change.
“I think, obviously 12 years at Mercedes is longer than most people ever spend in Formula 1, so to spend it with one team and to achieve what they have… Maybe he also wanted something different to spice it up a little bit,” Button – who raced with Hamilton at McLaren from 2010 to 2012 – commented.
“We all get to that point in our career where it’s like, ‘You know what? I’ve done what I set out to achieve’, and you choose to retire, whereas he’s gone the other route and gone, ‘You know what? I feel like I need a change – I’m going to go to Ferrari’. So it’s a big deal and I cannot wait to see how he goes in the Ferrari.
“The weird thing is that it’s quite an early call, though, to mention it this early on. It’s a year before he’ll be stepping into the Ferrari, so how is that atmosphere going to be at Mercedes?”
In terms of what the atmosphere at Mercedes could be like in 2024, Button questioned how the team will approach the amount of information they share with Hamilton.
“It’s not easy. What do they hold back from Lewis? He knows the ins and outs of this team very well anyway,” he conceded. “But when they get down to the nitty gritty, are there going to be certain things they hold back from Lewis? Possibly.
“And for George [Russell], he’s got to start thinking about a new team mate again. Is it going to be someone like one of his karting rivals, [like] Alex Albon, or is it going to be Fernando Alonso, the guy that just doesn’t go away? He’s always there fighting for the top spots in the top teams, so who knows?
“This definitely makes it an interesting year for us, looking forward to 2025 already – we still have another year of Formula 1 to look forward to, but 2025, this is proper exciting.
"But for Lewis, this is a brave move and a lot of respect to him, because he’s not just going to another team – he’s going to Ferrari. He’s going to a team where they speak Italian, a language he doesn’t know, a language that Charles does know very well. This is a biggie, so I’m excited for this and it’s great for F1.”
With Ferrari’s long and illustrious history in the sport, Button acknowledges that the team hold a certain appeal for many drivers.
“I think, for all of us, [we were] all little kids one day – a long time ago – and you see the red Ferrari and you think, ‘I want to race for that team’. So yes, it’s a biggie," he continued. "I didn’t get the chance to race for Ferrari – it was very, very close, [with the] contracts almost in hand, but I think this is a special one for him.
“We’re looking into the future too far, but I just hope it goes well for him because ending your career when you’ve had such highs, ending it with a team and you don’t perform there, it’s tricky. But I look forward to seeing Lewis [there] and I think Lewis is in a place where he’s got a lot of confidence at the moment in himself. I think he’s driving at his best, and if he can carry that over to Ferrari, then we’re looking forward to a great fight with him and Charles.”
And as for who he would like to see replace Hamilton at Mercedes in 2025, Button has a clear favourite in mind: “I have to say, I might have a man crush on my ex-team mate, Fernando Alonso! But I would love to see Fernando Alonso [there].
“He is 42 now, but the hunger’s there, and if the hunger’s there [then] the fitness is there. He drives every day – he’s driving a go-kart or some sort of race car. If it’s there, I think it would be a cool partnership. I think they’d learn from each other pretty well, and I think they’d work well together."