Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas has come to the defence of former Mercedes team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton after a troubling start to the 2022 Formula 1 season for the Briton.
Hamilton has been out-qualified twice and out-raced three times by new team-mate George Russell in 2022 after the 24-year-old was drafted in from Williams to replace the departing Bottas, but the car has been an erratic one that has looked incapable of perennially running high up in the order.
While Russell ended the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in fourth, Hamilton finished down in 13th, symbolising the car’s ineptitude at running in traffic as the aerodynamic inefficiency of the ground effect-based W13 continues to hamper them.
Hamilton was criticised by 2016 world champion and former team-mate Nico Rosberg after the race but, having raced alongside the 37-year-old for five seasons at Mercedes, Bottas emphasises his belief that the seven-time champion’s resilience will shine through.
“George had a great start. That was the key to his race, but we will see a strong Lewis still in the coming races,” he said.
The Finn has been a match for the Silver Arrows this year since his arrival at the Swiss team, and cannot discern exactly what has been holding his former employers back, but he prefers to work on enhancing the performance of his own car.
“I don’t know the reasons why they are struggling, I don’t know their technical details, but I focus on our things and focus on improving our car, which we did at the weekend and hopefully we can do it in the next race as well,” he added.
Mercedes have won all of the last eight Constructors’ Championships so, while there might have inevitably been a bedding in period under the new technical regulations, Bottas did not anticipate that the Silver Arrows would have this much trouble adapting.
“Absolutely. It is surprising. [I] Never expected [it] to be that tricky. They are still scoring points but hopefully eventually we can score more than them,” said the 32-year-old.
Former Ferrari and McLaren driver Gerhard Berger indicates that Hamilton may consider walking away from the pinnacle of motorsport if Mercedes are unable to find solutions to their troubles, especially after the manner in which his eighth title was cruelly snatched from his grasp by Max Verstappen last year.
“The title that slipped through his fingers against Verstappen last year was perhaps his last chance to be the sole record world champion,” Berger said.
“If it doesn’t work out this year and possibly next year, then his career could be over. After so many races, so much dominance and so many successes, I can imagine that in this situation the desire is lost.”
The Austrian added that the incrementally impressive performances of Russell “will soon get on Lewis’ nerves.”