Lewis Hamilton sealed his record-equalling seventh Drivers’ Championship last time out in Turkey. He leads teammate Valtteri Bottas by a whopping 110 points with three races to go in the 2020 season.
However, the Brit praised his Finnish teammate for getting better and improving year on year as Bottas attempts to beat the seven-time world champion.
Hamilton pointed to qualifying in particular as the area where the Finn has made gains, whilst also mentioning his superior race performance which has seen him overtake Bottas on track at the likes of Nürburgring and Portimão.
“Naturally Valtteri has been getting stronger and stronger each year and the media have commented on Valtteri 2.0 etc and every year you can see him grafting and chipping away trying to raise the bar in so many different areas,” said Hamilton.
“You’ve seen this year that, while yes the points gap is what it is, if you look in a lot of the qualifying [sessions] it was the smallest of margins.
“So closing the gap in qualifying, as he has done this year, has made it quite challenging — it already did last year, but I would say more so this year.
“In race trim, naturally, you can see that the consistency I’ve had this year is what’s made the difference.
“But if you look on the race weekends it was so close, but of course there is a points gap of seven points [between first and second] and if you have that consistently over a period of time … Valtteri was also unfortunate with reliability issues, so that makes the gap look even bigger than it is.”
Hamilton believes that his stablemate deserves more respect for his performances at Mercedes as ‘’it’s not easy being my teammate,’’ and that Bottas always look at himself to do a better job.
“People need to give Valtteri his due respect,” said Hamilton. “You’ve got to remember who he is driving up against, it’s not easy being my teammate, but he comes in weekend-in, weekend-out never moaning or complaining about how the car is.
“It is always that he says he has to do a better job, and I don’t know another driver who does that here.
“I think that’s something we have in common, we come into these weekends with a fresh head and mentally he is one of the strongest drivers here.”
Bottas feels like he’s ''getting better each year’’ and ''can take many positives’’ from 2020 as he looks towards a title challenge come 2021.
While bad luck has affected Bottas at Silverstone, Nürburgring and Imola, the Finn admitted Hamilton simply did a better job at other races as well. Bottas has won just two races in comparison to Hamilton’s ten.
“There are still three races, so to get the overall picture from this season there’s still a lot you can do and try to get a positive ending,” said Bottas.
“It’s a fact that for me the championship is lost, but I still keep pushing and if I look back at this year there are many positives I can take.
“I have been able to improve in many areas, for sure not still enough to win the title, but I’ll keep pushing.
“Yes, there were some unlucky races where I lost some points, but there were also races where Lewis was better than me and that’s, in the end, how he made the difference.
“Sometimes it was just very fine margins about how qualifying or the race ended up, in terms of what kind of strategy I was pushing for or how things ended up.
“You know, in this sport the points difference can look pretty big now, I know, but, in the end, it comes down fine margins and I’ve been unable to be consistently at such a top-level as Lewis has this year and that made the difference. It’s not a lot but it was enough to win.
“That’s something I’ll keep pushing on for the future because I feel I’m getting better each year.
“That gives me hope and motivation and that will to push more and try to keep growing for the future, so I’m looking forward to next year.”