F1: Lewis Hamilton pays tribute with Jenson Button set to race in 250th Grand Prix in Bahrain

Former McLaren team-mate impressed by motivation of Button

Lewis Hamilton has delivered a respectful tribute to former team-mate Jenson Button as Formula One's veteran campaigner stands on the brink of his 250th grands prix this weekend.

Now in his 15th season in F1, only four drivers have started more races than 34-year-old Button - Rubens Barrichello with 322, followed by seven-times champion Michael Schumacher (307), Riccardo Patrese (256) and Jarno Trulli (252).

Hamilton can only admire Button's fortitude and perseverance to carry on in a tough and demanding sport, even more after the loss at the start of the year of his father John who had previously missed just one of his son's races.

Hamilton, partnered by Button for three years at McLaren from 2010-2012, said: "I have a huge amount of respect for Jenson, watching him come back every year, to have that motivation, because as you get older it gets harder.

"It gets harder to train, even for younger people, and every year it gets harder and harder to challenge, and how you spend your energy is different every year.

"Yet every year he is on it, focused, and especially this year as his dad's not with him, who has been with him all these years.

"Even so, he is still there, still working away, and I take my hat off to him. He's a great athlete.

"I can only hope and dream I get to have as long and as successful a career as he has had."

Lewis Hamilton was left 'really happy' to seize the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend Lewis Hamilton was left 'really happy' to seize the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend  

Ahead of reaching the milestone at this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, the 2009 world champion concedes it is "crazy" to consider the fact he has been around for so long.

This year, in particular, is another learning experience for Button without his dad by his side, although there is one comment from from John that sticks with him to this day and reminds him why he remains in love with the sport.

Reminiscing, Button said: "The nicest thing anyone ever said to me came from my dad.

"He said: 'You might not be the quickest driver in the world, but you're the best'. Those words meant a lot, and they still do.

"Overall, I'm very happy with my career, even though there have been highs and lows.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is the way I've stacked up against my team-mates.

"I've had 10 of them in 15 seasons, so I've needed to prove myself to the new guy sat beside me virtually every year.

"It's a very funny sport in that respect because even after everything you've achieved, you've still got to prove yourself time and again."

Back in 2011 Button added another fairytale chapter to his career when he won his 200th grands prix start, taking the chequered flag in Hungary with McLaren.

Yet given McLaren are off the pace of Hamilton's frontrunning Mercedes team, iIt would be a major surprise if Button were to mark his latest milestone with a win in Bahrain, which this year stages a night race as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations.

PA

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