Oct.10 (GMM) Jenson Button has admitted he is working to build a team around him at McLaren.
Less than three seasons in, Hamilton's long McLaren relationship is set to terminate, with Button now insisting that he - and not Hamilton's successor Sergio Perez - is the driver to bet on for 2013 spoils.
Speaking to the Brazilian sports daily Lance!, Button said: "There are a lot of smart people in Formula One, which maybe is not so apparent from the outside.
"But it is a very competitive environment, and Fernando (Alonso) is one of those people.
Asked if he has taken another important step forwards with the impending departure of McLaren protege Hamilton, Button answered: "No comment."
But he did admit: "It's one less person in front of me.
"This year, I've had good race pace, but on Saturdays I've been usually second place at best.
"Next year I can be first. Race pace is my strength and I think there's nobody better in that way. Qualifying is harder for me.
"If I have a car that works for me, I can put it on pole, but if the car is a bit more difficult then I end up behind Lewis."
Meanwhile, whilst envying Alonso's position at Ferrari, Button - who has in the past been linked with the great Italian team - said it would be hard to arrive at Maranello to be the Spaniard's teammate.
"The impression I have is that you would get there and be very well received, but then Fernando would come in and start talking in Italian to the engineers," said the Briton.