Lewis Hamilton will be ready and rejuvenated to get revenge on Max Verstappen in the 2022 Formula One season reckons Jenson Button but the Briton has been told that the Red Bull driver will be equally as eager to prove a point.
The seven-time world champion was denied a record-breaking eighth title in agonising fashion in 2021’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
And the manner of Hamilton’s demise, and Verstappen’s victory, has sparked suggestions he could retire. The 37-year-old is waiting on the results of an FIA inquiry before he decides what to do.
It is hoped F1’s governing body will introduce changes that convince Hamilton to stay in the sport and continue to challenge for an eighth title that would see him surpass Michael Schumacher.
And Button expects his old McLaren team-mate to be fully re-energised for the new season, which begins in Bahrain on March 18-20.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, 2009 world champion Button said: “I don’t think anyone has spoken to him in Formula One. Obviously his team have. I spoke to him after the race and he’s not done an interview since then.
“It’s difficult to understand where he is. I think it was a fantastic time for him to get away from the sport and relax and recharge.
“Every driver needs that whether they’ve won the world championship or lost it on the last lap. He’ll come back a recharged man and we’ll see the best of Lewis Hamilton.
“He’s one of the best that have ever driven an F1 car and he’s going up against one of the best that has ever driven an F1 car.
“This battle, this doesn’t happen every often in F1. Hopefully we’re going to have a lot more of that in 2022.”
Yet Button also believes Verstappen will be hungry to prove that his 2021 title was not down just to race director Michael Masi’s decision-making in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s always difficult when there’s a controversial ending. Max is an exceptional talent,” the former Honda, Brawn and McLaren driver said.
“I said that from the word go because I raced against his dad in F1, Jos. I raced against his mum, Sophie Kumpen, when we were karting and she was my team-mate. He was always going to be a good driver.
“It’s whether he can keep building on that natural ability he has. For me he’s the most gifted driver of anyone but it’s whether he can improve on that and build himself into someone like Lewis who is the complete package.
“There’s a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I think every driver will say, ‘I’m very relaxed, if I don’t win the world championship this year there’s always next year.’ You don’t actually think that.
“You want to win every race, every world championship. He’ll be a little bit more relaxed in himself after last season.
“I’m sure he wants to come out fighting and fight for that victory from the word go. It’s a world championship he’s won but I’m sure he’ll want to go and win another one so he can say, ‘Look, it wasn’t down to Michael Masi.'”