F1 2024: Mercedes still ‘most likely’ to challenge Red Bull in new season says Jenson Button

Sky F1’s Jenson Button takes an early look ahead to the new Formula 1 season when the chasing pack will bid to close on Red Bull; Button also impressed with how Lewis Hamilton has handled two-year winless run; F1 teams to launch new cars in February ahead of Bahrain testing

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Jenson Button thinks Mercedes will be Red Bull’s closes rivals for the 2024 season, discusses when Lando Norris’ first win will come and Lewis Hamilton’s continuing desire too keep racing in F1

Jenson Button believes Mercedes remain the team most likely to take the fight to Red Bull in the new Formula 1 season.

The 2009 world champion and Sky Sports F1 pundit is hopeful the chasing pack will pose a greater challenge to the champions Red Bull in the 2024 campaign, to more closely mirror the more competitive battles that regularly took place behind runaway Max Verstappen last year.

Having won just one race since F1’s regulations were overhauled two years ago, Mercedes have promised a very different car for 2024, while Ferrari too are expected to reveal major changes. McLaren, the second-highest scorers in the season’s final 14 races, and Aston Martin, who proved the big movers of last winter, are also eyeing further significant gains in performance.

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Asked by Sky Sports which of those four teams in the chasing pack he feels are most likely to take the fight to Red Bull as it stands, Button replied: “Mercedes.

“When you look at the last 10 years in the sport, it’s Mercedes and Red Bull, so it would be Mercedes.

“I would love to say Ferrari, I would love to have them in the mix. You could say they were the closest competitor especially towards the end of the season, but I think Mercedes will have a good improvement [for 2024]. Whether it’s enough, I don’t know.”

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F1 teams will unveil their new cars in February ahead of pre-season testing (February 21-23) and then the first grand prix of the season in Bahrain (February 29-March 2).

The four teams behind the world champions possess no shortage of supreme driving talent themselves and Button said: “There are some seriously strong driver line-ups.

“Mercedes, can’t go past those two. I know Lewis [Hamilton], we were team-mates for three years, and for George [Russell] to get as close as he has to Lewis is impressive.

“But in terms of the young guns at McLaren, super strong.

“Oscar [Piastri] with a year under his belt, he’ll have more consistency going into the 2024 season. He had glimpses of greatness [in 2023] obviously but then consistency just wasn’t there, I think he ended up with less than half the points of Lando [Norris] (97 vs 205).

“But coming into a second season he’s got that under his belt, I think he’ll be competitive. So those two drivers will definitely push McLaren forward a bit as well.”

‘Hamilton hungry to get back to winning’

Button feels Lewis Hamilton, his former team-mate who turned 39 last Sunday, remains as formidable a force as ever ahead of his 18th season in F1 despite not winning a race for two seasons amid Mercedes’ fall from the summit of the sport.

Prior to 2022, Hamilton had previously won at least one race in every season he had competed, and Button has been impressed with how the seven-time champion has handled the situation.

“When you’ve won for so many years and then suddenly that’s taken away from you, it can work in two different ways,” said Button, who is returning to a full season of racing in the World Endurance Championship this year with the Jota-Porsche team.

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“One, you are just like ‘well, there’s no point anymore, I want to retire, I’ve been at the peak for so long and now I’ve not won a race in two years’. But also it can make you more hungry to get back to that, and Lewis is in that position right now I think.

“Lewis is as good as ever I would say in terms of his outright speed, but also now he seems much more comfortable in himself and confident in his ability, so he makes fewer mistakes. So he’s even better now than he was five or six years ago.

“That’s tough [for his rivals]. If he gets a car that’s competitive enough to fight for victories, when someone’s that strong and that confident in themselves it’s difficult to beat, as you can see with Max Verstappen right now.”

24 races in 2024! Watch every round of next season live on Sky Sports F1, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership

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