Lewis Hamilton wary of Valtteri Bottas but wants more title rivals
Lewis Hamilton has acknowledged that Valtteri Bottas is likely to be his main F1 2019 title rival after Mercedes’ perfect start to the season – but insists he wants more drivers to battle against.
Mercedes have crushed the competition so far this year, making history with an ominous run of consecutive one-twos and the Spanish GP was their most impressive weekend yet with Ferrari and Red Bull unable to challenge.
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- Sky F1 pundits on Ferrari’s troubles
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That dominance has engaged a Mercedes rivalry and a seemingly exclusive title fight, and Hamilton admits the battle between him and his team-mate is closer than ever and could be all season after edging back ahead in the championship with his Barcelona victory.
“The biggest threat is always the person that’s closest to you,” Hamilton told reporters. “And that person is Valtteri.
“But it still feels too early.”
But the Englishman, who has enjoyed immense tussles with Sebastian Vettel over the last two seasons, also says he is desperate for Ferrari and Red Bull to enter the title fight.
“It’s not as much fun, for sure as when you’re competing against another team,” Hamilton explained. “That’s what Formula 1 is about.
“That’s the exciting part, when you arrive and you’re competing against one or two other teams who are also bringing their A-game. Naturally in those teams, that’s another two drivers. That puts another spanner in the works and often when the cars are close, there’s strengths and weaknesses of either team, and how you play those and benefit from those, it’s awesome.
“But when that’s not there it’s definitely not as exciting from a competition point of view. Racing within a team, it’s not really how Formula 1 should be in my opinion. But it is how it is right now and it has been those ways in the past as well.”
Hamilton continued: “It’ s not our fault… it’s not these guys’ fault that they’re really great at their job!”
Hamilton also hyped up the threat of the improved Bottas, who has claimed the last three poles but lost out at the start of the Barcelona race.
“He’s pulling out great laps throughout the weekend and he’s performing better than ever,” Hamilton added.
“I think it’s great for the team, he truly deserves his position in the team and I think it’s really great to see him step up to another level this year.”
Best-ever team, best-ever car…
Mercedes have won all five races so far this year, appearing to build a bigger gap to Ferrari and Red Bull with their first upgrade package of the season.
“I would say even though the Red Bulls have picked up on their engine this year, it appears that they have not built as good a car, fundamentally as they had the previous years,” Hamilton said as he compared the competition.
“And Ferrari too have good power but are lacking in other areas, and obviously the last sector here has been a real struggle to them.”
Hamilton then described Mercedes as “the strongest team there’s ever been”.
A confident five-time world champion added: “It will be very, very hard to break that.”
Mercedes still refuse to count out their rivals – team boss Toto Wolff claimed they have “all the resources to rebound” and laughed off suggestions of the Silver Arrows going unbeaten through the 21-race season – while Hamilton even claims he has “struggled” with the car since the beginning of the campaign.
“Ultimately it’s a fantastic car it’s just the working window that I’m in, with my driving style, it’s not always doing what I want it to do,” he said, before making an ominous claim about a team that has won the last five championships.
“But it’s the best car that we’ve made up until now.”
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