Bottas warns Russell it will be near-impossible for him to beat Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas has been replaced at Mercedes by George Russell after five years at the team during which he helped them to five constructors' titles.

Valtteri Bottas has told George Russell that he is stepping into Mercedes alongside a phenomenal racing driver in Sir Lewis Hamilton, and that beating him will take some doing.

The Finn partnered Hamilton for five years, replacing Nico Rosberg in 2017 following the German’s shock retirement after his title success in 2016.

Together, they helped the Silver Arrows to five of their record eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships, but Bottas was never able to mount a significant title challenge due to the prowess of the incredible Briton.

He found himself out-qualified 72 times in 100 races by his older team-mate, and his 10 wins in 101 races displayed a driver who, while he is extremely quick and talented, was out-matched by the one in a million talent that is the 37-year-old.

Bottas then departed at the end of last year, and has been replaced by Williams’ Russell who massively impressed in his one-off appearance for the eight-time constructors’ champions at the Sakhir Grand Prix when Hamilton came down with COVID-19.

However, the 32-year-old suggests that his former team-mate is near unbeatable at present.

“I don’t see anyone else beating Lewis in the near future in the same machinery,” he told The Sun.

Having said that, he is aware of the vast potential that Russell possesses, and predicts that he will have few issues settling into the team whose junior programme he entered in 2017.

“George will adjust well because he has been with Mercedes for some years,” he affirmed.

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“But beating Lewis is not easy. I have experienced that. It is his consistency in his performances. Every driver has form that is a little bit up and down, but his baseline for performance is just so high.

“Even when he has a bad day it is not too bad. It is his consistency over the season.”

The now-Alfa Romeo driver went on to detail the other key strengths that Hamilton has to emphasise the sheer skill and brilliance of the seven-time world champion.

“Another of his key strengths is his ability to adapt to different conditions, the skill to react to changes, be it set-up or whatever,” he explained.

“This and his race-craft. His tyre management is a special skill and all these things are combined with talent.

“And he puts in the work, which not many people see, so he is hard to beat.”

While he was unable to beat him over the course of a full season, the 32-year-old takes pride in the occasions when he was able to come out on top.

“I can be proud that on my day, I’ve been able to beat him. But not consistently enough to beat him over a season,” he added.

Bottas will partner rookie Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo this year, and the Swiss team are to reveal their 2022 challenger on 27 February, just after the pre-season “shakedown” in Barcelona.