Button says McLaren can cope with 'big loss' of Hamilton without need for 'big brother'
Jenson ready to learn from newcomer Sergio Perez
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 02/11/12 8:54am
Jenson Button talks about the prospects for new McLaren driver Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes
Jenson Button has vowed that McLaren can recover from the "big loss" of Lewis Hamilton next season - even though he will not act as a "big brother" to new team-mate Sergio Perez.
A month after the news was confirmed, the repercussions of Hamilton's stunning exit from the Woking outfit for Mercedes are still continuing to reverberate around F1. For Button, the fall-out won't just see him partner a new team-mate in the shape of Perez, but will also see him assume a new role at McLaren due to his unofficial promotion to the rank of 'team leader'.
Yet while Button is ready to embrace the extra responsibility, he is refusing to see himself as a mentor to the 22-year-old Perez.
"I'm not that old!" exclaimed the Englishman during Thursday's press conference. "I don't feel like an older brother, although I was amazed to find out that Sergio was only twenty-two. It feels like he has been around for much longer than that.
"When Sergio is in the team, he'll probably learn plenty from someone who is older and more experienced than he is - which will be me - but I still think that as an older driver you can still learn from a younger team-mate because they will still bring fresh ideas to the table. But an older brother? Definitely not!"
Button and Perez have already held informal talks out of the limelight to discuss their forthcoming partnership, but the 2009 World Champion admits that overcoming the loss of Hamilton will be a considerable challenge.
"With Lewis leaving, the team lose a very fast driver and one who has achieved a lot - including the last championship won by the team. It is a big loss," said Jenson. "But things change, you learn to adapt and it's definitely not the end of two strong drivers at McLaren.
"Sergio will be fast, it's a great opportunity for him and I'm sure he'll take it with both hands."
Having started his F1 career at Williams before moving on to Renault and the then-BAR outfit which morphed into the Brawn team with whom he won the 2009 title, Button is well versed in the trials and tribulations of transferring to new teams and new surroundings.
Hamilton, however, does not. Having spent the entirety of his motorsport career to date within the familiar confines of McLaren, his move to Mercedes - which will officially begin on January 1st - represents a bold leap into the unknown for the 2008 World Champion. With the team winning just a single race since returning to the sport as a fully-fledged team three years ago, the challenge is steep and Button was notably circumspect when asked about the task his soon-to-be-ex-team-mate had given himself.
"The first year with a new team is always a little bit tricky and it will be a new experience for Lewis. I'm sure he is excited about it, and he's as quick as they come, but sometimes it just isn't that easy to win grands prix and build a team around you."
And in case you were wondering, he may not be that old, but Jenson turns 33 in January.