2023 won’t be a “walk in the park” for Verstappen and Red Bull

The 2009 F1 world champion and Sky TV pundit says that Sakhir was only one sample venue, and that the balance of power may change at other circuits as the season unfolds.

Button, whose entry into the NASCAR Cup with a three-race programme of road courses was announced yesterday, says the Bahrain season opener was a «great» race to watch.

He noted that a “pretty special” battle between his fellow former champions Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton was a particular highlight.

“It looked like a relatively easy race, especially for Max,” said Button. “But I have to say, forgetting who won the race, it was a great race. It was too easy for Max, yes, it was. But the race itself was great.

“I loved the action, there was so much action. To see to multiple world champions going at it, Lewis and Fernando, it was pretty special.”

Button stressed that Bahrain’s unusual nature may prove to be misleading when assessing the F1 pecking order for the 2023 campaign.

“I know that a lot of drivers have said, well, it’s going to be an easy championship for Red Bull and Max,” he said. “But how can you say that? We’ve only tested at one track, we’ve only raced at one track.

“And we all know that Bahrain is very unique in the way that the cars work there. It’s a heavy braking, traction circuit, it’s not so much about high-speed.

«So we can’t say that. I think we’ll understand a bit more after Saudi, which is more of a fast-flowing track. And also when we get the European races.

“So no, it’s not a walk in the park for Red Bull and Max. It’s a great start to the season, and very different to what they had last year. But I still think we’re going to have some very, very close fights.

“And I don’t think it’s going to be a straightforward win for Red Bull and Max. But I loved the first race. I thought it was action-packed and that’s what I look for.

Jenson Button, in the paddock

Jenson Button, in the paddock

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

«I look for great racing, and great fights. And two greats like Lewis and Fernando going at it was very special.”

Asked what F1 could learn from NASCAR, Button suggested that stage points could be an interesting option, while praising F1’s willingness to change, as evidenced by sprint races.

«I think the great thing about F1 is they are very open to changes and tickling it here,” he said. “We have the sprint races, which I think work really well. Not everyone’s going to be happy when you change a sport that has been the same for so long. But I like that change.

“In NASCAR they have stage points through the race. That could make it interesting because it depends on when you pit for tyres.

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«If you get points at certain points through the race, if it’s lap, 20 lap 40 and the end of the race, it might change strategies around who knows? I don’t know if it would work.

“I think F1 is in a great place. I enjoy the racing. The dream in F1 is that the cars are lighter, that’s always the dream, because I think as drivers, we like lightweight cars – he says, as he’s about to race a stock car!

“But I’m happy with where F1 is, as long as we’re ready to tickle things here and there if we think it’s necessary, and try it and not be afraid.”

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