Button: 2010 will be a belter

WORLD champion Jenson Button believes a ferocious level of competition will make the 2010 season one of the most thrilling of all time.

Button is preparing to begin his maiden title defence this weekend in Abu Dhabi, with the first competitive racing of the year taking place in today’s qualifying session.

And the Englishman knows that task is made even harder by a stellar grid that includes three former champions: Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

“I think it will be a belter of a year this year,” he said. “You’ve got four top teams, maybe even five or six that are going to be quick and competitive.”

Much discussion has centred around whether seven-time champion Schumacher, 41, will be able to recreate past glories, having returned to the track after three years in retirement.

“I think it is great for the sport,” said Button. “He’s 41, people are saying he’s too old, he’s not. Michael’s realised it’s difficult to find something else to do that gives you that buzz like Formula One does.”

Pre-season chatter has also revolved around Button joining Hamilton in an all-English line-up at McLaren, and the rivalry expected to ensue.

Hamilton, the 2008 champion, was hampered by an underperforming car during the first half of last year but that has only sharpened his competitive instinct.

“I feel just as determined as ever if not more so,” said the 25-year-old, who recorded three podium finishes in the last four races. “I finished on a high last season and hopefully this weekend is a new start for us and will be positive for me and Jenson.”

Alonso, meanwhile, is expected to return to winning ways having made a long-anticipated switch Ferrari.

“I’m ready to win,” said the Spaniard, who triumphed in 2005 and 2006. “I feel ready to fight and hopefully I’m in a position to do that.”