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today is May 30, 2023

If Sergio Perez wins this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, he will lead the Formula 1 world championship for the first time in his career. Jenson Button reckons such a win would instigate a title challenge.

Perez has already won two of the first four grands prix this year, doing so from pole in Jeddah while also winning the sprint race in Baku last weekend. He sits six points behind championship-leading Red Bull team mate and reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Last year Perez finished the season 149 points behind Verstappen. However Button, the 2009 world champion who is returning to the Le Mans 24 Hours this year in a modified NASCAR Cup series car, believes his former McLaren team mate is showing improved form in 2023.

“I am really impressed with Sergio. Max, he has to be the toughest team mate, because he just gets out there and gets it done in terms of his speed,” said Button.

“I think [Perez] did a really good job at the weekend, and back-to-back wins if you like with the sprint race and the main event. That will give him a lot of confidence.

“I think we are only going to really know when we go to the next race. Kind of a street race as well: If he can pull out a win there, I mean that would be a massive deal for him. And I think that would give him confidence for the season.”

Button says Perez needs to demonstrate he can be a consistent threat to his team mate. “We haven’t seen him throughout the season obviously be as competitive as Max. Max is on it every weekend.

“Lewis Hamilton: on it every weekend, pretty much. Maybe not so with the car this year. But that’s normally the way that they go racing, and that’s why they’re so difficult to beat over a season. Whereas Checo has been a lot more up-and-down.

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“It’s much more difficult to win a championship like that when you’re up against Max. So I think the consistency is where Sergio has been lacking. The consistency to pull it out the bag. But if he can do it in Miami, I think he has a chance to fight for the championship.

“I didn’t think I’d be saying that, I really didn’t. But it’s great to see he’s got so much confidence in that car. And it’s good for the sport. We need it because the Red Bull obviously has an advantage at the moment. We need both them to be fighting. And I think Max is also like ‘fair play to Checo’. He’s done a really good job. So it adds to the title fight, we need it this season. So come on Checo!”

Perez replaced Hamilton as Button’s team mate at McLaren in 2013. Hamilton is now in his 11th season with Mercedes, and much speculation surrounds whether he will extend his contract into next year.

“I don’t think Lewis is going to walk away from the sport,” said Button. “I think as a racing driver, you have two things. One is you’re winning for so long and then you’re suddenly not, you want to fight back to winning. So you’re not going to retire.

“And then you can come at it the other way. If you’ve been in a in a bad car, you want to retire. If you’ve been there for many years in a bad car. Because it just gets you down.

“Lewis is not in a bad car. He’s in a car that’s not as good as what he’s used to. I get that. But I think he knows the strength of the team, he knows how quick he is still, so I think he’s going to work with this team to get back to fighting with Red Bull. And I think they will.

“It probably won’t be this year, but 2024, I think we’ll see Lewis Hamilton on the grid. I think he’s still hungry. He’s still hungry to win another world championship.”

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