Jenson Button knows a thing or two of his former teammate and rival Lewis Hamilton, as does Nico Rosberg. Both have beaten the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion during their spells together and have solid advice for incoming George Russell.
At McLaren from 2010 to 2012, Button and Hamilton were teammates, the former arriving after claiming his first world title into a team that was essentially built around Hamilton.
The first and last year together Hamilton placed fourth and Button fifth, but in 2011 the latter was second with Lewis fifth.
With the news that Russell will be joining Mercedes next year, the teammate dynamic between him and Hamilton will be in a harsh spotlight as the Young Gun enters the team of the King setting the stage for another epic F1 chapter.
Between then and now speculation has been, and will continue to be rife about how these two will gel or not at Mercedes; with Hamilton’s former teammates not shy to share their insights.
In an interview with Sky, Button’s advice to George is: “He has to join the team and be himself and shouldn’t care what Lewis is doing. He should do his own thing.”
Button recalled his transition from Brawn GP, World Champion in 2009 to McLaren driver, a team built around Hamilton since 2007, their 2008 World Champion: “That was the first thing I said when I walked in the door: Is this Lewis’ team or are we being treated the same? They said we would be treated the same and I just said: Where should I sign?
“For Lewis, it was strange that I came into his team and was equal. Lewis is pretty straightforward when it comes to driving but he was in a way naive when it came to building a team around himself.
“You have to make sure you surround yourself with good people on the team. Be a team player, take the boys to dinner. The little things count. People have to think you care. Lewis didn’t do that at the beginning because he was so fast. He thought that he didn’t have to do anymore but now he is a complete package.
“For George, it’s completely different now than it was in our time,” explained Button.
Also weighing in on one of the sport’s most intriguing pairings was Rosberg, the 2016 F1 World Champion, who was beaten by Hamilton in the first three years of their partnership at Mercedes.In 2016 however, the German dug deeper than he ever could or would to claim the title from Hamilton.
Rosberg said of Russell’s arrival at Mercedes next year: “The challenge for him will be to hold back in the first duel or not? It’s so difficult. He’s up against the best of all time. Nobody expects him to destroy him. But if he can do that, he’ll be the greatest hero of all time.”
In other words, George has the most to gain and Lewis the most to lose, according to Rosberg: “He’s the greatest, and the youngster might beat him. It’s an uncomfortable situation.”
And indeed HAM-ROS did have their fair share of incidents including contact at Spa and the double wipe-out in Barcelona, a proper civil war at Mercedes, which Nico recalled: “It was hard at the limit. The problem is that it’s within your family. That makes it so difficult. Your team is a family, but in this family, there are big differences. It’s difficult to manage.”
Over to you Toto Wolff…