Jenson Button believes Max Verstappen is facing a tougher time making progress because he has “annihilated” his recent Red Bull teammates in the manner of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
Verstappen is second in the drivers’ championship after finishing in the top two in each of the past four races, winning one of the two rounds held at Silverstone. The 22-year-old has been on the podium in every race he has finished so far – and only once in third place – while teammate Alex Albon has a season’s-best of fourth place, and 2009 world champion Button says the gap between the two is a problem for Verstappen.
“Alex is a long way off of Max,” Button told the Australian Grand Prix’s ‘In the Fast Lane’ podcast. “It’s tough for (Max) because now he doesn’t have the competitive teammate, really. He’s out on his own. He’s probably not able to progress as much because his teammate isn’t where he is at in terms of pace.
“When your teammate’s half a second off you, which he normally is, you don’t tend to listen to his set-up changes and his set-up work, so you’re basically a one-car team, so it’s tougher. He looks to the Mercedes and I think it frustrates him. I think Silverstone was awesome — what a great result — but then, Barcelona, you can hear the frustration in his voice on the radio. He just can’t challenge them because he doesn’t have the car underneath him.
“So it’s tough for him, but he’s just got to do the best job he can with what he has. You compare him to his teammates the last two years — I mean, he has just annihilated them. I haven’t seen that in motorsport for a very, very long time, probably back to the Ayrton Senna days and Michael Schumacher days.
“I don’t think there’s been a driver that’s annihilated their teammate like he has for a very long time. So he’s doing an exceptional job, and I would love to see him going up against Lewis (Hamilton) in a championship fight. Those two, top of their game — it’s what we all want to see, but is it ever going to happen? I don’t know.”
Button raced alongside Hamilton at McLaren from 2010-2012, and said Valtteri Bottas needs to get Mercedes on his side to give himself a chance of winning the title.
“Lewis is a very straightforward driver, which is impressive to see,” he said. “He never plays games, which is awesome, it really is. Most drivers do, and I have played games — you know, I think you have to when you’re up against someone like Lewis. Fernando (Alonso) when we were teammates… oh, wow! I mean, it was just games back and forward the whole time. No-one ever saw it, and there are things that we probably can’t ever talk about, but it was fun — it was actually really enjoyable and is what kept the excitement there.
“But with Lewis, he is straightforward. He is just really quick. So it is really difficult when you come up against someone like that, and I guess the only thing that Valtteri can do is really get the team behind him and be a real team player. That is what really hurt Lewis when I came into McLaren — it was that it was Lewis’s team, basically. He had won the world championship with them, and the only way that I knew that I could have equal treatment was to spend as much time with the team as possible and make sure that I was part of that team as well, and they respected me as much as they did Lewis. Then you have just got to go out and just hammer him every race.
“The thing is with Lewis, though, is it’s difficult because you beat him in one race, you’re really chuffed with yourself and you see his head drop, and it’s like, ‘wow, I’ve got him, his head’s dropped’. And then the next weekend he comes out and blows you away. I wish I could get inside his head and really understand him as an individual, because most drivers aren’t like that, and I don’t know why that is. I don’t know how he can shut down that negative feeling and negative views that he had the weekend before and suddenly the next weekend he’s blowing you away, and he’s a completely different person. So, yeah, it’s interesting.”