Three-time Formula One race winner Johnny Herbert has suggested that Lewis Hamilton would like Mercedes to retain Valtteri Bottas ahead of next season, rather than replace the Finn with George Russell of Williams. The Silver Arrows could be set to make at least one change to their driver line up this winter, with both Hamilton and Bottas out of contract at the end of the year.
The former is aiming to win an unprecedented eighth Drivers’ Championship title this season in order to cement his status as F1’s all-time great.
It remains to be seen whether he will decide to extend his career on the grid into 2022 and beyond, with Russell seemingly waiting in the wings to snap up a Mercedes seat in the event that one becomes available.
Meanwhile, Bottas is also facing an uncertain future and has been under pressure to perform as of late after failing to lay a glove on his team-mate’s title charges since joining the Silver Arrows in 2017.
Despite his lack of threat to Hamilton’s unrelenting dominance, the 31-year-old has played a huge role in allowing Mercedes to win titles by picking up important points on a regular basis and helping his British counterpart to pip the likes of Max Verstappen to top spot in previous years.
Herbert, who made 161 Grand Prix starts throughout his 11-year spell in F1, has claimed that the dynamic between Hamilton and Bottas is crucial to the fortunes of Mercedes, suggesting that the Stevenage-born racer would like their successful working relationship to continue into next season if he decides against retirement.
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“What he [Bottas] gets is really terrible, because he is beaten from all sides, with people saying he is not doing well,” Herbert told Motorsport.com.
“But he has performed well. On some occasions, he has beaten Lewis. The point is that the consistency is not there in the races.
“But even when he is further away, he manages to deliver what Mercedes needs as a team, which are the points for the Constructors’ Championship and in that he is brilliant. Brilliant!
“Does he cause problems in the team? No. Is he what Toto [Wolff] wants? Absolutely. Is he what Lewis wants? Yes.”
Hamilton has occasionally proved to be something of a handful for his team-mates in previous campaigns, with the 36-year-old sparking a famous and bitter rivalry with old friend Nico Rosberg in 2013 that lasted until the latter’s retirement three years later.
However, the reigning champion appears to enjoy a friendly alliance with Bottas, with minimal tension on display between the pair even at the worst of times.
Herbert continued, hailing Bottas as the ideal partner for a driver of Hamilton’s calibre and urging Mercedes to avoid replacing him with Russell for the time being.
“You don’t want problems and fights, things like that,” added Herbert. “So maybe it would work for him to change in the middle of the season? I don’t know.
“But it would change a lot. George could do that, as we saw in Bahrain. But Valtteri has worked a lot since that arrived at Mercedes and he got better.
“It’s still not enough to beat Lewis at the moment, but we’re talking about Hamilton, you know? I think anyone in that car wouldn’t have an easy life, even Max or Charles [Leclerc] would have a hard time overcoming him.
“The thing is to beat him in every race, and we know that Lewis always has a card up his sleeve, if he needs to find a tenth or two in the standings, and he will always be a candidate for race victories. Even on a bad day, he probably ends in second.
“So Valtteri does a good job and I think he’s perfect for the moment, and George did a good job in Bahrain.
“Now it all depends on their decision, whether Bottas is dismissed or whether Lewis retires.”