• Life away from McLaren would be tough, says Button
• F1 season may start too soon for McLaren’s new car
Lewis Hamilton has been warned by his McLaren team-mate that he is in for a shock if he quits the team in pursuit of another world championship.
With the new Formula One season just four days away Hamilton, who has been frustrated by McLaren’s failure to produce a car capable of matching Red Bull and Ferrari, has told his employer that he is not prepared to go down in history as a one-title wonder.
But Jenson Button, who unlike Hamilton has experienced both the sides of paddock life, said: “It’s Lewis’s decision, but I think that he feels very much at home within this team and it might be a surprise for him going somewhere else. It would be a very different environment for him.”
Hamilton, 26, knows nothing of Formula One life outside the sheltered, privileged world of McLaren, who he joined as a starry-eyed teenager, having first approached the former team principle Ron Dennis as a precociously gifted 11-year-old.
But after a sensational start to his F1 career, in which he almost won the title in his debut season in 2007 and then became the then youngest champion in 2008, he has suffered two frustrating years with the Woking-based team and looks set for a third after poor results in pre-season testing.
Button, who at 31 is five years older than Hamilton, added: “Lewis is going to be racing in Formula One for a lot longer than I will. Unless he decides he wants to give up and do something else.
“But I don’t think he’s thinking like that. I really think he’s thinking that he’s going to do the best job he can, and hopefully we’ll all work together, which we are doing, to get the best out of what we’ve got.”
The new McLaren MP4-26 has been described as “a mess” by the former driver Martin Brundle and both drivers struggled to pull it round the Barcelona circuit during pre-season testing. There have been problems both with reliability and a lack of pure speed.
Button added: “I haven’t really run it on the race distance and I haven’t run it on qualifying spec, so we still don’t know [what the car can do], which in one way is frustrating but in another way is quite exciting.
“We’re going to Melbourne and we might find that we’ve got a good package. Hopefully our reliability will be good when we get to there.
“It’s been very difficult for the whole of the McLaren team. They’ve been working very, very hard. But I think everyone is feeling a lot more positive now. There’s some interesting things in the pipeline and I think we’re all looking forward to getting to Melbourne.
“We’re a little bit apprehensive but also I think this team is a very strong team. They have found themselves in a difficult position before and they can fight their way out of it.
“That’s exciting, but it’s disappointing not to have really found the performance in the car because I haven’t really done any set-up work. I have to admit that when I first jumped in the car my first reaction was not, ‘Wow, we’re going to blow everyone away’.
“I’m not going to lie.It hasn’t been the best winter, and it’s not the best way to go into a season.
“If you look at the mileage clocked up by Red Bull and Ferrari, we are a long way down. You’d say they’re a good chunk in front of us. But there is no point in being negative about it, and down, at this point of the season.”