Jenson Button has hit out at those suggesting McLaren is falling out with departing driver Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton is heading to Mercedes next year, and since the news broke, reports have revealed a Twitter dispute with Button and a Suzuka party-snub by his mechanics. And after Hamilton was reportedly late for a briefing in Korea, a Sky reporter quoted Button as saying his 2013 teammate “Sergio (Perez) wouldn’t have been late”.
“I didn’t say a word of that,” Button told Reuters. “It’s amazing how people are so opinionated about what they see happening within this team with the drivers. None of it is true in the slightest,” he insisted.
With Hamilton leaving McLaren after a six-year career with the British team, however, the British press – as ever – is hanging on the 27-year-old’s every word. For instance, after Korea, Hamilton said racing to tenth was “a day to forget. A year to forget as well. I’m looking forward to a fresh start next year”.
Button replied: “I would word it differently and choose my moment to say it but it’s his view and I understand what he means,” he is quoted by the Mirror.
Indeed, Hamilton insists he is still committed to McLaren.
“I’m still 100 per cent in this team to the last minute,” he said. “People will continue to say that there is a rift between me and Jenson but there honestly is no issue between us.
“I have been part of this team for so many years and have a great relationship. I think I am loved as much as I love the team.”
Button agrees: “As far as I can see with Lewis, he is focused and wants to win races. Nothing has changed, it is just the view of a few people with a wide audience. And they need to get their facts straight,” he is quoted by the Express newspaper.
“He has chosen to go his own way at the end of the year. It is his decision, although I personally don’t think it is the right decision. But the team will do all they can to help him win grands prix.”
And team boss Martin Whitmarsh said he is sure McLaren will give Hamilton a fitting send-off before he moves on to Mercedes.
“He is loved in this team. He knows that,” he is quoted by the Telegraph. “It’s an emotional time for lots of people at this team, including Lewis, but when we’re motor racing we put things to one side and focus on the racing.”