Lewis Hamilton has praised Valtteri Bottas “exceptional” human qualities and backed his team-mate to rediscover his early form at Mercedes.
As part of a revealing insight into the reasons Hamilton believes his relationship with Mercedes is “stronger” this year and why he stands on the verge of a fourth world title, the championship leader spoke warmly of his relationship with Bottas.
“Valtteri is an exceptional human being,” said Hamilton.
“You can see he gets it from his dad. His dad’s a lovely man, very polite, and comes over and says hi. Valtteri wants to win through merit and through hard work.
“There’s never a moment when he’s hiding anything from me. In actual fact, it’s unusual where he will ask me something or I’m actually just offering it.
“Before the race [in Austin] I was like ‘hey, I’m doing this with the car before the start’ and he’s like ‘oh are you?’ and then he therefore went and changed as well.”
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After being signed at the start of the year to replace the retired Nico Rosberg, Bottas ran Hamilton surprisingly close in the season’s first half with the Finn claiming the first two wins of his career and outqualifying the Englishman five times in 11 races.
But Hamilton has dominated the Mercedes battle since the summer break, qualifying and finishing ahead in all six races amid his surge to the brink of a world championship crown he can clinch in Sunday’s Mexican GP.
“Valtteri naturally wants more and he has more to come,” added Hamilton, who leads Bottas by 87 points in the standings.
“It’s not an easy car to drive and to come into a new team with a new aero car is definitely tough. But he’ll go from strength to strength and I will work with him.
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“I don’t mind if he wins some races, I don’t want him to win them all, but I like that he can push me.
“Particularly at the beginning of the year that was what he was doing, but I’ve just been able to take the car to another level in the second part of the season. But he’s working hard and positive things will come.”
Although Hamilton did not draw a direct comparison between his current and former team-mate, it is clear that Rosberg’s retirement at the end of 2016 served to diffuse an increasingly intolerable.level of tension at Mercedes.
With Mercedes’ pace advantage from 2014 to 2016 such that their two drivers were the only championship contenders, Hamilton likened the effects of the internal head-to-head as being “like a hurricane” with the energy “stuck in the room” rather than being directed at a rival team.
That has changed this year with Ferrari’s return to title contention, while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff also believes Bottas’ arrival has helped Hamilton.
“You can see also the relationship with Valtteri is an important factor,” said Wolff.
“The spirit is great within the team and, through all the difficult moments, that was an essential piece of the jigsaw.”
See if Lewis Hamilton can clinch his fourth world championship at the Mexican GP exclusively live on Sky Sports F1. Sunday’s race begins at 7pm. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!