Jenson Button: Why 2023 F1 Championship ‘Won't Be Walk in the Park’ for Max Verstappen, Red Bull
Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing won’t have it all their own way in this year’s Formula 1 championship, according to 2009 World Champion Jenson Button.
Verstappen dominated last weekend’s season-opening round in Bahrain as he followed up pole position with a comfortable victory in the race.
Sergio Perez ensured Red Bull locked out the front row of the starting grid before going on to complete an emphatic 1-2 for the team in the race.
It marked Red Bull’s best-ever start to a Formula 1 season while its anticipated season-long rivals, Ferrari and Mercedes, both floundered.
It prompted some to suggest that Formula 1’s title race is as good as run, with Mercedes’ George Russell quipping that Red Bull should win every race, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc conceded the reigning champs have a huge advantage.
Button, though, believes there are sterner challenges ahead for Verstappen and Red Bull.
“It was a great race,” said Button. “It was too easy for Max, yes, but the race itself was great—there was so much action, to see two multiple world champions going at it, Lewis (Hamilton) and Fernando (Alonso), it was pretty special.
“I know a lot of drivers have said ‘well it’s going to be an easy championship for Red Bull and Max’, but how can you say that?
“We’ve only tested at one track, we’ve only raced at one track, and we know Bahrain is very unique in the way that the cars work there: it’s a heavy braking, traction circuit, and not so much about high speed.
“I think we’ll understand a bit more after Saudi Arabia, at a fast and flowing track, and [after] the European races.
“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.”
Button was speaking following the announcement of his impending debut in NASCAR.
The Briton, 43, raced in Formula 1 from 2000 through 2016—winning 15 Grands Prix—and since stepping away has competed in other categories.
Button’s most successful stint came in the Japan-based Super GT, winning the 2018 title, while he has also dabbled in DTM, Extreme E and the World Endurance Championship. Button’s next venture will be in the NASCAR Cup Series, with his part-time three-race stint beginning at COTA, on March 26.
“I don’t want to be negative about F1, as it is an amazing sport and I’m an F1 champion, but you’re so focused,” said Button.
“It is your life, everything is for F1 and I did it for 17 years, you’re in this world and you forget about everything else. So when you step outside that it’s exciting to do other things.
“With NASCAR it’s much more relaxed—don’t get me wrong, the racing is very serious – but the atmosphere is more relaxed, it's more family-based, I think that’s why we like it, it’s trying something different, and that’s exciting.”