Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Valterri Bottas might be on his way out at Mercedes – but Lewis Hamilton has backed his team mate with a classy message of support. It appears increasingly likely that Bottas, 32, will be replaced by George Russell for the 2022 season, with Toto Wolff admitting he has already made the decision. But speaking ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix at Circuit Zandvoort this weekend, Hamilton said his focus was on “right now” and not who he may be partnering next season.
Finnish driver Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams in 2017 following the shock retirement of Nico Rosberg, and since then he and Hamilton have secured four straight Constructors’ titles.
The 36-year-old British driver has also captured all four Drivers’ championships in that period.
They remain on course for a fifth in 2021 despite only holding a slender seven point lead over Red Bull.
“My focus right now is, me and Valtteri have a job to do,” said Hamilton, when asked about the speculation over next season.
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“I’m proud to work alongside Valtteri. I think he’s a decent human being and I think that’s at the core of why I have the respect I think I have for him. And on top of that he’s a fierce competitor. He never gives up, keeps pushing, and he’s helped me deliver these championships with the team.
“I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Bottas has nine Grand Prix wins at Mercedes but his yet to triumph in 2021, and has thus far been coy when asked about his future.
If, as expected, Williams driver Russell is to get the nod then he and Bottas could yet make a straight swap, which would see the Finn return to the team he raced for from 2012-2016.
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However, another likely destination is Alfa Romeo, after Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen announced he will retire at the end of this season on Wednesday.
Bottas wouldn’t be drawn on that rumour but was full of praise for the 2007 world champion.
He had a impressive and long career in Formula 1, one of the longest if not the longest,” he said.
“He had an impact on me as a youngster, I was following him closely when he started in F1, I was following his season when he won the world championship.
“At that time I was doing my first season in single-seaters in Formula Renault when he won his title with Ferrari. He’s obviously a big star in Finland, he’s a bit of a legend.
“It definitely always was good fun to watch him and it’s been nice also racing with him because he’s one of the drivers that when you he race with you’re quite comfortable going wheel to wheel. He’s always had good respect to his competition, and that’s the way I like racing.”
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