Hamilton tips Button to take his F1 title

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The Independent Online

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton recognised today that his title defence could last only a handful more races and anointed fellow-Briton Jenson Button as his heir apparent.

"I think Jenson's got a great chance, a great shot at it so I wish him all the best," he told Reuters in an interview at the McLaren factory when asked who was going to win the championship.

"I think if I were to wish anyone (else) to win, it would be him."

Unlike Ferrari's Felipe Massa, who effectively wrote off his team's title chances in Spain last weekend, Hamilton was not about to throw in the towel just yet.

"Everyone has their own ways of thinking and for me, I've got a job to do," said the Briton, who has scored just nine points from five races compared to 41 for Brawn GP's championship leader Button.

"I want to win the world championship, we are a long way behind in points. I've never been as far behind or ahead in points before.

"There's a lot of races left and if the car in front that is leading doesn't finish the next 10 races ... it's never over until it's over," Hamilton added optimistically.

"For sure when we get to mid-season if we've still not scored many points, then we will have to knock it on the head," he said.

"We'll keep pushing to try and win races in the year but clearly defending the world championship is (will be) out of the question."

Hamilton was lapped by Button at the last race in Barcelona, with the Brawn driver chalking up his fourth win in five races while the champion finished ninth.

Next week is Monaco, the glamour highlight of the calendar, and Hamilton won there last year after finishing second in his 2007 rookie season.

He can hope to shine in the Mediterranean principality, and not only thanks to a special helmet with team sponsor and diamond company Steinmetz defining his number one in sparkling gems.

"Monaco will be one of the circuits, at least up until now, where we have the best chances of winning," he said. "It doesn't mean we will, but we arrive hopefully with a better package and able to turn things around.

"This is my favourite circuit, and especially after having won there it will be great to go there again and have another shot at it. But it will be tough for us this year."

Button, a Monaco resident, has yet to win his other 'home race' but Hamilton wished him all the best if McLaren were not in a position to beat him.

The 29-year-old Brawn driver, written off by many after two years spent among the backmarkers with his team's departed predecessors Honda, is living a dream this season.

In January he did not know whether he had a future in Formula One and now he is the title frontrunner with a 14-point lead over Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello.

"I think it's a great story, so I wish him all the luck," said Hamilton. "They (Brawn) are going to have a great car there (in Monaco) so to beat them will be very tough.

"I don't think he has ever won there ... it will be a very special one for him to add to his list."

Despite McLaren's struggles with an uncompetitive car, Hamilton hoped to win races again this season. There are 12 remaining and the halfway point is Germany in July.

"It's just a question of when," he said. "We've been working very hard and I feel I've been driving very well.

"As a team we've done a fantastic job, the pitstops have been great and the preparation for the race weekends and our development has been better than a lot of other teams.

"I'm sure anyone else in our position with not such a great performing car wouldn't have been able to do what we have done until now. So I'm very proud of the progress we've made, but the question is when will the car get better and if it will."