Formula One needs Lewis Hamilton to have a teammate who provides a better challenge than Valtteri Bottas, according to former world champion Jenson Button.
Hamilton has dominated Mercedes partner Bottas since the Finn replaced Nico Rosberg ahead of the 2017 season. Rosberg retired after beating Hamilton to the 2016 championship.
Bottas has struggled to match the form of Rosberg, who was often a match for Hamilton and beat the Englishman to the 2016 championship. Rosberg scored nine race victories in that title-winning campaign — Bottas has claimed the same amount across three and a half seasons at Mercedes.
Button thinks F1 would benefit from Hamilton having someone like Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the sister car.
“Comparing records is a tricky one,” Button told Autosport. “We all like a number and we all like to beat a number, but it’s really difficult to compare.
“All you can say is he’s done the best job he can and the team have done a fantastic job, they’ve not been beaten in the hybrid era and Lewis has won all but one championship with them. I don’t see that changing either. It’s going to continue until he stops, or until he gets a teammate that can actually challenge him.
“He’s definitely learned from his teammates, and he’s definitely a more rounded driver than when we were teammates. But if he had a teammate like Max [Verstappen], we would see a different driver from Lewis.
“He needs to have that challenge, otherwise he’ll just keep doing the same thing and he’s going to keep winning the championship.
“He needs somebody that’s going to challenge him and Mercedes. You can’t blame them because it’s easier if they’ve got one guy who is quicker than the other.
“I know Valtteri gets close in qualifying and sometimes outqualifies him, but race pace compared to Lewis this year, he’s nowhere near him.”
Hamilton is yet to confirm his plans beyond 2020. While it is expected he will sign a new contract with Mercedes, he recently suggested walking away from the sport at the end of the season is a genuine possibility. Mercedes junior George Russell, who will continue with Williams in 2021, is the most likely candidate to be Hamilton’s next teammate after Bottas.
“I don’t think George is ready to be up against Lewis yet, there aren’t many drivers that are,” Button added. “Max, Charles [Leclerc] and Daniel Ricciardo – that’s it I reckon, those are the guys that are ready to challenge Lewis.
“I’d love to see Danny Ric up against Lewis, because I think he would mentally hurt Lewis a lot. He would be quick and he would laugh everything off, he would be so relaxed, so down to earth, he’s a proper character and I know that most drivers would find that difficult.”