Jenson Button says Lewis Hamilton is favourite to win F1 2017 title
Button doubts Vettel can make up 34-point difference; "Lewis has had his fair share of luck that he didn't have last year"; Button also reveals he feels he stayed a year too long in Formula 1
By Jonathan Green at Suzuka
Last Updated: 10/10/17 11:32am
Jenson Button thinks Lewis Hamilton is favourite to win this year's world championship as he is unconvinced Sebastian Vettel will be able to reel in the "massive" points gap.
Hamilton has opened up a 34-point lead over Vettel after claiming three wins and a second place since the summer break, while the Ferrari driver crashed out in Singapore and was fourth in Malaysia.
Button, the 2009 world champion, believes his former team-mate's luck has turned around this year after Hamilton was hit by several reliability issues as he lost out to Nico Rosberg by five points.
"You'd have to say Lewis because the points gap is massive," Button told reporters in Japan.
"I know that it can turnaround pretty quickly in this sport but reliability-wise they've looked very strong this year.
"You would say that this year Lewis has had his fair share of luck that he didn't have last year. It's evening itself out.
"Last year he was so unlucky with reliability issues. This year it's the other way round it seems.
"But it's so much fun to see the racing between those guys. I'm really happy that it's happened and I think a lot of people are tuning on because of the fight between two different manufacturers."
Button also thinks the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari and the regulation changes have been crucial to making Formula 1 more popular, following several years of one-team dominance.
"This year is important for Formula 1. The way the cars are a big improvement," he added.
"And then you have two or three teams fighting for wins which hasn't been the case for so long. I think having the fight between Ferrari and Mercedes is great for the sport.
"It's a shame how the last two races have gone because there is a big gap in the championship now but I think Formula 1 is in a good place. Having three teams fighting it out is what needs to continue in the future."
Button 'fell out of love' with motorsport
Button retired at the end of last season after a 17-year career in F1 and revealed he now believes he stayed in the sport a season too long.
Button registered McLaren's last victory in November 2012 and said the team's fall back into the lower half of the field in the following years had seen him lose his love for motorsport.
And while he made a one-off return at May's Monaco GP as a stand-in for Fernando Alonso, he insists his time in F1 is up.
"Do I miss F1? No. I miss racing but I've sort of fallen out of love a little bit with motorsport. I think that maybe I left it a year too long racing in Formula 1," Button said.
"The last two years were tough. When you have been lucky enough to achieve in the sport and have some great years with McLaren, to suddenly have a few years of not being able to achieve and see the guys at the front fighting for wins every race is tough. I probably left things a bit too long.
"It's a crazy job to get in an F1 car to race in Monaco and to drive a car that I'd never driven before. I look back at it and I'm very happy with how it all went. To put it ninth on the grid was probably one of my better Qualifying sessions.
"It was nice to have another taste for it and have a taste of these cars but I knew when I finished that weekend I wasn't going to be back."
However, after a year away from full-time racing, Button is ready to make a return in another category in 2018 after rediscovering his hunger in the 1,000km Suzuka.
"I came here completely green, it was completely different to anything I'd ever done. We didn't get a very good result but I came away and I felt that I had the love back for racing. As soon as we finished I wanted to do it all again. It's been a while since I had that feeling so I've been itching to drive.
"Next year I will race something. I don't know what yet whether it be in America, Europe or Japan. There are a few options but I want to do a full season."