Hamilton says Bottas has “earned his place” at Mercedes

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton gave a strong endorsement to Valtteri Bottas following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, saying his team mate has “earned his place” at Mercedes.

Bottas is seeking a renewal of his contract to drive for the team again next year. He was three laps away from victory in Baku when a right-rear puncture put him out.

That handed the win to Hamilton, who visited his team mate to commiserate with him before celebrating his victory.

“The reason I was delayed on the podium was because I came back here,” he said. “He had just driven a great race, I was battling at times and I think he just drive exceptionally well as he did in the last race.

“I think more so than ever he’s earned his place here. And I think the team should be really happy with him. I know how difficult it is when you have days like that when you think you’re going to win and then it gets taken away, I’ve had that before. So just out of respect I thought I’d try and lift him up a little bit.”

“I don’t think he was expecting to see me,” Hamilton added.

Hamilton described the moment Bottas’s tyre failed after he struck a piece of debris on the pit straight.

“It was difficult to see at those speeds with the turbulence and everything. All of a sudden he started to slow down and then I saw some white or silver start to show where’s usually black. I thought something must have happened to his tyre, obviously I got closer then backed off because I didn’t understand what exactly had happened.

“I didn’t have the time to be emotional for him. I was like, ‘oh my god now I’m in the lead, I’ve got to bring it home’.”

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Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018
Hamilton and Bottas after the race

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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43 comments on “Hamilton says Bottas has “earned his place” at Mercedes”

  1. Although I’ve previously advocated that Ricciardo should look for a Mercedes seat, Mercedes will wonder if Bottas’ form is good enough for them, or if they want to really safeguard their WCC competitiveness by recruiting Ricciardo (who might be more demanding than Bottas).

    It does feel like whichever team between Ferrari and Mercedes picks up Ricciardo will be able to mount a more effective challenge/defense for the WCC, alongside the established champions that both teams have.

    1. @phylyp

      Honestly, I’ve been super impressed with Bottas after Australia. I’m not sure if he’d be as good as Ricciardo in a Mercedes, butte’s actually been the better of the two Mercedes drivers so far…. and that’s saying a lot.

      I think the Ricciardo on Mercedes decision will depend entirely on two things –
      a) Whether Mercedes will still be the best car this season – If they are the best, I see them sticking to their current line up. They should have the WDC and WCC in the bag with Ham-Bot if the car is at it’s best. If they fall short to Ferrari on performance, then I see them wanting to strengthen their driver line-up, and look at getting Ricciardo in.
      b) Whether Toto can handle a 2 rooster team – Although Mercedes had a very successful run with Hamilton-Rosberg, I remember both Toto and Niki saying that it was a difficult relationship to manage and that they weren’t sure if they could deal with seasons like that in the future. I think it’s a no brainer that Ricciardo and Hamilton would have a similar flair to it.

      It’s definitely an exciting time in the driver market. I think Ricciardo is the key, which could make 4 to 5 different drivers switch teams maybe Bottas, Sainz, Gasly, Leclerc and even Alonso.

      1. @todfod – very nice points, and I agree with them.

        I’m now of the mindset that it’s to Ricciardo’s benefit to go to Mercedes, but in Mercedes’ benefit to probably retain their current line-up. The only way Mercedes can manage a two-rooster team would be to strictly bring in team orders (to get the WCC), but it’s unlikely the drivers will be happy with that, in their respective pursuit of a WDC. That said, I’d still rate Mercedes as being the team better able to handle two top drivers, in comparison to Ferrari and Red Bull.

        After a tame & nearly static silly season in 2017 for the 2018 driver market (apart from the Toro Rosso shenanigans), it does look like Ricciardo – combined with several driver contracts ending – will kick off a very interesting silly season.

        Your comment about Alonso – is it Renault you see him potentially moving to, or elsewhere?

        1. @phylyp

          Your comment about Alonso – is it Renault you see him potentially moving to, or elsewhere?

          Yep. I can see him ending his racing career with Renault. If Ric goes to either Merc/Ferr, that will get Sainz back at Red Bull, opening up a seat at Renault.

      2. Not sure Riccardo is such a good choice, he is looking attracting right now but he is highly flattered by his ‘outsider’ lap. The drivers fighting for WCC don’t put as much fight against him and his kamikaze manoeuvres, he is relying too much on the other driver in his overtake moves.

        Fighting for the title would mean a lot more doors closing and penalties coming his way… It he would have to find other ways. I think it would be nice to see him in a Merc or Ferrari but it will take him time to become wcc

    2. I too have been impressed with Bottas’s form this year. Apart from his Melbourne crash, he’s been the better Merc driver.

      However I need to ask this question. Is Bottas going better this year, or is Hamilton not performing very well and that makes Bottas look good. I personally think Hamilton is not at his best right now. But I firmly believe that Hamilton will get back there and he may make Bottas look poor again.

      I don’t think Hamilton would be able to make Ricciardo look poor. He might beat him (or not), but he won’t make him look poor. I think Hamilton knows that and that is why he is advocating for Bottas as a teammate.

      For me, Bottas is a bit nothingsy. I don’t doubt he is quick, but he lacks any edge and I don’t see him ever developing one. Hamilton on a good day will wipe the floor with him. Rosberg was a bit like that too. He was undoubtedly quick, but lacked Hamilton’s magic. But Rosberg was able to use other skills to get inside Hamilton’s head and beat him. I can’t see Bottas ever being able to do that. Which is why Hamilton likes him. He’s quick enough to cause some problems, but not good enough to make waves.

  2. I must admit that at present it’s difficult to justify getting rid of Bottas. His race in Australia was forgettable, then he was tentative against Vettel in Bahrain, which seemed to get people talking; but I think he’s doing a solid job. If the Mercedes was as dominant as it was in 2014 – 2016, you could bank on him finishing in the top two every race and beat Hamilton on some select weekends (as Rosberg did).

    He’s not a “flair” driver in the way that Ricciardo or Verstappen is, but he seems to get the job done. As DC always says on Channel 4, “you’re only as good as your last race”… not entirely true, but it is evident in the stock changes of say, Ocon, this year compared to last.

    A tricky decision for Mercedes that may well revolve around whether Hamilton stays… the contract would be signed now if both parties were 100% committed to it.

    1. Agree 100%. Ferrari needs riccardo way more than mercedes does.

      1. Does it? Raikkonen appears to have stepped it up this year, whilst he’s performing like this they don’t need to replace him at all considering they know he gets on very well with their primary driver

        1. Kimi has been better this year, but can Ferrari be confident of that performance staying next year. In my view Kimi’s second stint in Ferrari has been disappointing and he hasn’t been able to capitalise on opportunities and often sub par performance being beaten by his team mate

        2. Raikkonen appears to have stepped it up this year

          Maybe … but I’m not convinced by enough. Take Baku: He qualified 6th in the best car due to his own driving, got into an accident on the first lap (and yeah you can argue it was Ocons fault, but when the situation was reversed last yeah and Raikkonen squeezed Bottas everyone was saying Bottas should have backed out, and Bottas was more alongside Raikkonen in 2017 then Raikkonen was along Ocon). Following that he then didn’t do much of anything else until second place was basically handed to him.

          If it wasn’t for everything else that happened in the race Raikkonen would have finished 6th in the best car, if that is stepping up then it’s not really good enough.

    2. @ben-n
      I agree. As a Ricciardo fan I just want him in the car that will give him the best chance at the WDC. What colour that is I really don’t care. I am not sure its Red Bull, as much as I loved their battle on Sunday (but not the end result) I honestly think if Dan was in front and Max quicker they would have given the “Let him past, if he doesn’t make up the place ahead he can give it back”. Dan needs to look at if the “we let them race” is a one way door.

      That said people think Dan has his choice where to go, but Mercs may not want to upset the apple cart when they can win the Constructors with Bottas’ in the car- I think even your die hard Lewis fan would say Bottas has been as good, if not better than Lewis so far this year. He is driving exceptionally well so far, I hope he gets a win real soon. Dan is out there, funny guy but will hold his place and wont back down, maybe Merc don’t want a Hamilton v Rosberg again just yet.

      That’s not to say Bottas fire to win is less, just the Finns just seem to be quieter and less likely to cause an issue in the team. It would be hard of Mercs to drop Bottas now- but lets see.

  3. Hamilton is being smart. He most likely knows that there is a good possibility that Ricciardo will go to Mercedes. He is effectively saying ‘why change things’? He knows Bottas, and is obviously comfortable with Bottas in the team because he plays by the rules and is no threat to Hamilton within the team.
    Much like Raikkonen is to Vettel, Bottas gets on with things without any fuss and without any crying to the media. If Ricciardo was at Mercedes or Ferrari, feathers would fly and everyone knows that. It would look good on tv, but as Baku proved for Red Bull, easy on the eye no holds barred racing sometimes mean two smashed up cars and no points.

    1. Bottas is a quality driver and would be leading the WDC if that debris was not there…

      How much more of a ‘threat’ does a teammate need to be?

      1. @reganama, as you say, we could be talking about Bottas having won two races back to back right now, and perhaps even three races if things had gone slightly differently in Bahrain – it’s a stronger performance than many might have expected at the start of this season.

  4. Depends how he went at it, but that seems like a very nice move from Hamilton (and surprising from a top champion) . Especially after those few races where even he could measure that he could very well get beaten by Bottas if he isn’t in top form. I guess he REALLY doesn’t want another year with a Rosberg like bad blood in the team.

  5. Of course LH endorses VB. Even a VB with his ‘gloves off’ would be less of a challenge for LH than some other drivers. Sorry to say VB, you’re really likeable and all, but we need a bigger talent in one of the top three car’s seats.

    1. The same goes for Ferrari, no?
      Kimi is approaching the mark of 30 podiums without a single win.
      The only driver of the top 3 teams that didn’t won a race for the last 3 years.

    2. @robbie I notice you’re extremely critical towards the drivers you don’t like and extremely understanding towards those you like, case in point verstappen and bottas this season, bottas is having, australia aside, a very good start of the season and is outperforming an admittedly not in form hamilton, verstappen is making lots of mistakes and is not currently at his 2017 level.

      As one who likes verstappen as well, I hope he goes back to 2017 levels before it’s too late, but I don’t really see what you’d ask bottas to do more than this, rosberg wasn’t doing any better if you take the dominant car in equation.

      1. @esploratore Oh I do like Bottas. What’s not to like about him as a person and a driver, but I don’t think he’ll prevail over the season, in spite of the start he has had and LH’s different start. Imho, he won’t beat LH over the season, and we are still trying to figure out if they even have the WDC’s car at all.

        The big difference with NR was the potency of the rivalry…gloves off, and I mean fully off, right? But I don’t sense that coming out of VB even if there’s a bit of a see saw between the two of them. I don’t sense the push is the same from VB toward LH, and LH seems to be acting like he’s already lost his winning car.

        Rosberg wasn’t doing any better? I think he was thrilling us more, and perhaps tried harder, no slight meant toward VB but just bourne of their unique relationship. We’ll see. I pushed for Nico because I hadn’t really paid all that much attention to him until I saw that first season and how he handled having MS as a teammate. I watched to see what he could do with that. And look what he did. Let’s see if VB can take the bull by the horns. Nico has lot’s more time on the team though, too.

        Max? I’m so thrilled he’s in F1. Doesn’t it just feel like his mistakes are stepping stones? I just think he is special and that he’s a master in the making. Name an athlete, an artist, a professional who didn’t have their stepping stones toward mastery. When he rounds out some of those stones, wow, watch out. A refined Max is going to be scary, and the others are already wary of him. Fantastic stuff.

        1. @robbie

          I agree on Max having his stepping stones, unfortunately, his stepping stones are more in display in his 3rd season than his first two. I don’t deny he’s a serious talent, and that he’s a star of the future, but going by his current season, however his mentality for wheel to wheel racing is definitely in question right now.

          I think you’re being a little too harsh on Bottas. Last season was his first season in Mercedes, so if it wasn’t as stellar as people expected from him, it’s understandable. This season he really has to prove himself, and as @esploratore said other than Australia, he’s actually been better than Hamilton so far. He’s been taking the fight to Vettel and has done everything the team expected of him. I think you would need to wait till the mid point of the season to give a fair evaluation of Bottas. If he starts slumping again, I agree that Ricciardo should take the seat, if not, then maybe Bottas is the better option.

          but we need a bigger talent in one of the top three car’s seats.

          Top teams only hiring top tier drivers…. I wish it was the case. We would be lined up with Hamilton and Alonso at Mercedes, Vettel and Ricciardo at Ferrari and Verstappen and Hulkenberg/Perez at Red Bull.

          1. Ju88sy (@)
            2nd May 2018, 11:51

            @todfod @robbie Although it’s easy to forget, Max has already completed 3 seasons in F1! this is the start of his 4th, he has driven in 64 F1 GP weekends. The guy may still be young but let’s not mistake that for a lack of experience!.

            We need to see Max develop his wheel-to-wheel race-craft, his ability and speed is unquestioned, but he seems to always fight in the moment (makes him fun to watch!) and not think about the long-game. I fully expect Ricciardo to beat him again this season, until Max learns which fights to pick.

            You could argue that it took Hamilton until he was 30 to learn to see the long-game, and Vettel still suffers from impetuosity, so Max has plenty of time!!!

          2. @todfod No, that’s fair comment, and I would love to see VB take the fight to LH. I just don’t think it will happen but I would be pleased if it did. I still say there isn’t that aspect in him to go for the jugular though. Perhaps I am comparing too much to LH/NR where it was at times literally like MV/DR last weekend. Can we really see that between VB and LH? Sure maybe if VB can keep his current form and LH stays off by half a step he’ll prevail over him…but I don’t see that happening over the season and that would still not be VB stamping his authority on the team.

            In a way though I think you are being a tod unfair ;) to Max when you critique him for how he is now, but are willing to give VB until the half-season mark. Let’s give Max the same half-season and see how things are. And while I absolutely take your point about VB’s last season being his first on the team, and I said all along at a minimum he’d be starting off on his hind foot due to that newness, this is also only Max’s second full season with RBR, but he does seem far more engrained and as up to speed as anyone could hope and expect, often exceeding DR’s.

          3. @ju88sy Fair comment. I think you are right that he very much fights in the moment. Remember last year when he and DR clashed and DR said of Max that he (Max) just can’t stand being passed by him. My response at the time was to chuckle to myself and think ‘sounds like a WDC level driver to me.’

        2. @robbie I can agree hamilton will beat bottas over the season, this is an outlier, where bottas is performing at his best and hamilton pretty bad, last season hamilton had moments like this too (russia, monaco) and bottas had a mid season form slump, he only came back to be competitive at the end of the year.

          Yes, ofc, rosberg had a more intense rivalry with hamilton, bottas is more of a quiet driver, since bottas came I didn’t really see mercedes letting their drivers race, even cause ferrari is a serious threat these years.

          Verstappen is indeed good to have in f1, however like tod also said above, he used to make less mistakes in 2016-2017 (didn’t follow 2015 enough) than this year, which is odd; when he combines speed with not making mistakes he’s unstoppable, saw a bit of austin 2017 the other day, want THAT verstappen back, even if he slightly cut the track he overtook raikkonen at the last lap and one of the last turns, the move would’ve worked even without cutting and I don’t really see a lot of drivers who’d make it work at the last lap.

  6. If Mercedes get caught by Red Bull and continue to be matched by Ferrari then they should change their driver line-up to freshen up the team and save a lot of money. Snatching Riccairdo away from Red Bull would weaken RB too.
    I would go with Riccairdo and Bottas and save 30 odd million per year.
    I doub’t Hamilton’s loss of edge will last many more races, but age is going to creep in soon, especially if you believe the anti-Alonso brigade who claimed FA ‘past it’ at Ferrari (same age as Lewis is now)
    With the above scenario Mercedes should then give McLaren Power Units and have them run George Russell alongside Lando Norris. Bring Russell in to replace Bottas if he does well.

    1. Mercedes should drop their 4 time WDC to save 30 million
      Alonso was ‘past-it’ at Ferrari
      32 is close to end of career when you have Raikkonen matching Vettel this season
      You should change a pairing who work well together are fast and dont cause controversy to ‘freshen things up’

      This has to be a joke post right?

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      1st May 2018, 15:27

      Hamilton brings a lot more to the team than 30 million – Mercedes needs to have a superstar driver, they are the most luxurious car manufacturer.

      The team must also take inspiration from having a driver like Lewis and must work really hard to give him the best car possible. I can’t see Williams trying to do the same for Lance when he chucks a second away on qualifying.

      Not to mention that he brings massive experience to the team – it’s one thing to be quick but it’s a different thing to win a championship. It takes a lot of dedication and personal confidence. Nico’s interviews proved that in 2016 he had to re-invent himself and even that was almost not enough against Lewis.

      Mercedes needs to keep Lewis in the hammer zone cause he’s their best weapon and Bottas’ best incentive to perform well.

  7. BJ (@beejis60)
    1st May 2018, 14:08

    “You can be my wingman any time”

    1. But he is not his wing man this year is he! Valtteri is driving probably better than Hamilton in the first 4 races, but for Melbourne.

    2. @garns – not sure if you missed the reference @beejis60 was making, it was to the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun. Amusingly, Val Kilmer’s character had the callsign “Iceman” in that movie.

      1. Garns (@)
        2nd May 2018, 3:51

        Haha- yep missed it! I got stop logging in late at night :)

  8. Aaditya (@neutronstar)
    1st May 2018, 15:21

    I just love how often people like to think that everything drivers say in public to has to be about personal gain and ulterior motives. It is definitely true a lot of times, but I like to believe that sometimes drivers do say what they really feel. Hamilton has been beaten/matched by Bottas the last three races, so there’s no reason for him to come out and praise him now of all times if he is insecure about who his teammate will be in the future.

    And don’t give me that “Hamilton knows that once he rediscovers his form, he will easily beat Bottas so that’s why he is praising him” because I don’t agree with that line of thinking at all. Unless a sportsperson knows exactly what he has been doing wrong (if that is the reason for his losses in the first place), there is no way for him to “know” with a guarantee whether he will be able to beat his opponents in the future. For all he knows, maybe they have just stepped up their game. He can only work harder and “hope” that he’ll be able to win again.

    Also, the type public behavior varies from driver to driver, and Hamilton has always struck me as one of the more expressive drivers on the grid and he speaks his mind more often than not. I remember watching his post-qualy interview for the 2017 Monaco GP and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to read another F1 driver as easily. That interview proved to me that as confident as Hamilton might seem to us fans, he is his own first doubter.

  9. Well Hamilton is saying that because he doesn’t want a Ricciardo or an Alonso beside him, he’s so transparent.

    1. James Coulee
      2nd May 2018, 1:11


    2. YellowSubmarine
      2nd May 2018, 4:09

      Well Hamilton is saying that because he doesn’t want a Ricciardo or an Alonso beside him, he’s so transparent.

      It would be quite unseemly for Hamilton to not come out and commiserate publicly with his teammate after benefitting from Bottas’ bad luck as he did, wouldn’t it? Some of y’all here sounding all cynical about Hamilton’s account would be the same ones accusing him of not being a good teammate, being selfish, etc.
      I’ve personally come to accept, over the years, that Hamilton will always have someone displeased at him. Regardless of what he does and how he does it, there will always be some individual that is so incensed at the man that Hamilton could go around handing candy to kids and petting cats and walking people’s dogs for free for days on end, and someone will still call him names.
      “Hamilton doesn’t want an Alonso beside him” – wasn’t this debate settled in Hamilton’s rookie year?

      1. Excellent post…

        Cracked me up – well said.

        1. Don’t think HAM cares who his team mate is but recognises when he’s been outperformed and will dig deeper to sort out *his* issues. As much as I like BOT would prefer RIC in the merc to see if he can “tame the diva”…

  10. Well, Bottas has been ahead of him fair and square for 2 races out of 4 (Bahrain, China), clearly behind in 1 (Australia) and Baku was 50-50. Without the flat spot, Bottas wouldn’t have been ahead of Lewis.

    1. I actually put at 3-1 for Bottas. Regardless of the safety car period, Bottas would have come out either just ahead or just behind Hamilton on Ultrasofts. Either ways, he would have finished the race in front of Hamilton.

  11. Good job going to commiserate Bottas.

  12. One question: can Rocciardo manhandle a Merc the way he does the RB?

    1. Ricciardo of course. Rocciardo is still racing karts!! :)

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