Lewis Hamilton does not think Valtteri Bottas has to defend his results in the 2020 season – or that he needs to stick up for his Mercedes team-mate.
Bottas has been widely criticised for his efforts this year, having failed to sustain a World Championship challenge to his colleague and added only one more victory to his win in the opening Austrian Grand Prix.
It even led to suggestions that the Finn, who is under contract for 2021, could be replaced by George Russell, who had outperformed him during the Sakhir Grand Prix when he was drafted in from Williams to deputise for COVID-19 sufferer Hamilton.
Asked by Autosport how impressed he had been with Bottas’ displays this year, Hamilton, who eventually coasted to his seventh World Championship title, said he did not know “how many more nice words I can say about Valtteri”.
He added: “I don’t think Valtteri needs to defend his performance and I don’t feel like I need to. I think he’s continued to work at it and we’ve definitely had very close qualifyings, particularly this year.
“Like I’ve said before, it’s never easy having strong team-mates. It’s a constant battle between you, both mentally and emotionally throughout the year.
“What’s really great with us is that we fight it out hard on-track but then when we’re outside, we manage to maintain a gentleman working relationship and I think that’s a big showing of his personality and character as a man.
“I know next year he will take more steps, so I’ve got to work a way and figure out how I can find some more speed for next year.”
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Bottas achieved five pole positions during the 2020 season and admitted that finishing second in the standings “can’t be that satisfying”, while he conceded at the virtual FIA Prize Giving ceremony that his own year had been “a bit mixed”.
At least the 31-year-old had the consolation of helping Mercedes to a seventh consecutive constructors’ World Championship, as he has in each of his seasons with the team since joining in 2017 following Nico Rosberg’s retirement.
“Of course I didn’t meet my targets for the year in terms of results,” said Bottas.
“But now, looking at the big picture, there are so many positive things and so many more lessons learned about driving and about myself.
“It’s everything I can carry into next year and really turn that into a strength and try again.”
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