Hamilton: “Valtteri doesn’t need to defend his performance”

Lewis Hamilton has said that “Valtteri doesn’t need to defend his performance” after rumours surfaced that Bottas’ position in the team could be under threat from George Russell.

Russell replaced Hamilton for the Formula 1 Sakhir Grand Prix, after the world champion tested positive for COVID-19, and ended up out-performing Bottas over the course of the weekend.

That result, and the fact that Bottas once again fell behind Hamilton during the championship battle generated rumours that Russell could make a last gasp switch to Mercedes for the 2021 season.

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Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff has since quashed those rumours, confirming that Bottas will race alongside Hamilton for next season and Hamilton has also defended his team-mate, saying that Bottas is someone he has a great working relationship with.

Speaking in Saturday’s FIA press conference, Hamilton said: “I mean, I don’t know how many more nice words I can say about Valtteri.

“I already did, the last time I was in Bahrain.

“I don’t think Valtteri needs to defend his performance. I don’t feel like I need to.

“I think he’s continued to work at it and he’s definitely had very, very close qualifyings, particularly this year.

“No, like I said before, it’s never easy being a team… having strong teammates.

“It’s a constant battle between you both, both mentally and emotionally through the year and what’s really great with us is that we fight it out hard on track, but then when we’re outside, I think we manage to maintain a gentleman… a working relationship and I think that’s a big showing of his personality and character as a man.

“I know next year he’s going to be taking more steps, so I’ve got to go and work away and try and find some more speed for next year as already this weekend he’s ahead of me, so good job.”

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Mercedes ended qualifying in second and third, the first time the team has failed to secure pole position all season.

Bottas starts ahead of Hamilton in second, but admitted he didn’t have the perfect lap with his tyres losing temperature as the session went on.

“Towards the end of qualifying I started to struggle a bit more with the front end of the car – maybe with the track cooling down.” commented Bottas.

“Then it made it difficult to improve more, because I thought we should have been quite a bit quicker than the earlier sessions but Red Bull managed to optimise everything for the last part of their qualifying which matters.”