Bottas: Hamilton ‘not unbeatable’ despite current win streak
Following his sixth win in eight races in 2019 at the French Grand Prix, things are looking good for Lewis Hamilton’s chances of adding a sixth world title to his career achievements this season. But according to his main championship rival and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton is not indomitable – and the Finn insists he will be doing everything in his power in the coming races to get back on terms with his fellow Silver Arrow.
Things were looking good for Bottas in the championship fight after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the Mercedes drivers tied on two wins apiece, while Bottas was actually a point in front in the standings thanks to taking the fastest lap bonus point in Australia. Since Spain, though, Bottas’ results have read 2-3-4-2, while Hamilton has shovelled on 101 points with four straight victories and one fastest lap bonus.
So, did Bottas really think there was a chance of arresting the progress of his currently-dominant team mate?
“He’s not unbeatable,” said Bottas, after finishing second to Hamilton, 18 seconds adrift and in the clutches of third-placed Charles Leclerc's Ferrari, at Circuit Paul Ricard. “I know that. I just need work hard.
“My gap to Lewis [in France], for sure I'm not pleased with that,” he added when summing up his race. “In the beginning, once the tyres were fresh there was no issue keeping up with him. Today my issue was keeping the front tyres in a good state. Always halfway through the stint my front tyres were starting to be finished and the gap started to build. That was the difference to Lewis. He was quick on Sunday and efficient on the tyres and that’s how he made the gap.”
Race pace is one of the key things I need to focus on and improve still
When asked what area he would be focusing on to bring about improvements, Bottas admitted that it was chiefly his Sundays that were not currently on the level of his team mate.
“It's super competitive this year," he added. "Of course it has been in the years before but now it's been really close between Lewis and me, closer than ever in qualifying, and also, from my side, in terms of race pace, it has been better than ‘17 and ‘18.
“But still, the race pace is one of the key things I need to focus on and improve still, particularly some tracks, in different kind of conditions. But [Mercedes are] a big amount of points now in the lead so that's how competitive it is and it's going to be all about small margins and taking the opportunities of each race weekend.”
Fortunately for Bottas, the chance to hit back will come in just a few days’ time at Austria’s Red Bull Ring, a track with several special memories for the Finn, who qualified on the front row there for Williams in 2014, scored a pole and a win for Mercedes in 2017 then followed that up with pole a year later before retiring with hydraulics issues.
But with the gap to Hamilton now standing at 36 points in the drivers’ standings, Bottas needs to get the proverbial wiggle on in Austria and the coming races if he’s to be in with a realistic chance of stopping his team mate from running away with the 2019 title.