Lewis Hamilton reveals 'huge respect' for Jenson Button ahead of 250 GP milestone
Hamilton hails ex-team-mate as Button says he's still learning
By Pete Gill and James Galloway. Last Updated: 04/04/14 8:01am
Lewis Hamilton has paid an effusive tribute to Jenson Button as his former McLaren team-mate prepares for his 250th grand prix.
Having morphed from fresh-faced novice with Williams into an elder statesman of the field, Button is poised to end the season as the third highest-appearing driver in the sport's history.
This Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix marks another notable milestone in the 2009 World Champion's career as he hits the 250th-race mark, leaving Hamilton, his partner for three years at McLaren between 2010 and 2012, in awe at his longevity.
"I have a huge amount of respect for Jenson, watching him come back every year, to have that motivation, because as you get older it gets harder," said the Mercedes driver.
"It gets harder to train, even for younger people, and every year it gets harder and harder to challenge, and how you spend your energy is different every year. Yet every year he is on it, focused, and especially this year as his dad's not with him, who has been with him all these years.
"Even so, he is still there, still working away, and I take my hat off to him. He's a great athlete. I can only hope and dream I get to have as long and as successful a career as he has had."
Button and Hamilton spent three years as McLaren team-mates
It remains a matter of statistical-focused dispute whether Button or Hamilton should be regarded as the victor in their head-to-head contest at McLaren with Lewis out-scoring Jenson in two of their three seasons together but Jenson outscoring Lewis in the cumulative points tally.
Having seen off the intra-team challenge of Sergio Perez last year, Button now finds himself pitched against Kevin Magnussen at McLaren and says he takes particular pride in his head-to-head record against his team-mates since debuting 2000.
"One of the things I'm most proud of is the way I've stacked up against my team-mates," the 2009 World Champion mused. "I've had 10 of them in 15 seasons, so I've needed to prove myself to the new guy sat beside me virtually every year.
"It's a very funny sport in that respect because even after everything you've achieved, you've still got to prove yourself time and again."
Jenson made his debut as a fresh-faced 20-year-old
According to Button, the learning process is ongoing even during his second decade in F1.
"For me being 14 years in the sport, I still feel I have more to learn. I'm definitely not the perfect driver yet, and I never will be, but there's always more to learn and that's something to me that's exciting about the sport.
"New regulations obviously change the sport quite a lot, especially with the new regulation change, and again you have more to learn. For me that's what keeps the sport exciting and that's what's kept me on my toes for the last 14 years and hopefully many more."
F1's 200 club
The 13 drivers who have started 200 or more grands prix:
1. Rubens Barrichello - 322 (1993-2011).
2. Michael Schumacher - 306 (1991-2006, 2010-2012).
3. Riccardo Patrese - 256 (1977-1993).
4. Jarno Trulli - 252 (1997-2011).
5. Jenson Button 249 (2000-present).
6. David Coulthard - 246 (1994-2008.)
7. Giancarlo Fisichella - 229 (1996-2009).
8. Fernando Alonso - 217 (2001, 2003-present).
9. Mark Webber - 215 (2002-2013).
10. Gerhard Berger - 210 (1984-1997).
11. Andrea de Cesaris - 208 (1980-1994).
12. Nelson Piquet - 204 (1978-1991).
13. Jean Alesi - 201 (1989-2001).