Valtteri Bottas: I know I can beat Lewis Hamilton

By Sports Desk December 04, 2019

Valtteri Bottas insists he has what it takes to beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who is celebrating a sixth Formula One world title.

Mercedes, who have won a record six consecutive drivers' and constructors' title doubles, are expected to be front-runners again in 2020.

That is the last year before new technical regulations come in for 2021, and Bottas, having finished behind Hamilton in all three of his seasons with the German manufacturer, is eager to pose a more consistent challenge to the Briton.

Bottas finished 87 points behind Hamilton this year but feels the four race wins and five pole positions he earned over the season proved he has what it takes.

"For 2020, there are no major regulation changes in Formula One so that means I think it will be even closer competition with many teams," Bottas said in quotes to Sky Sports at a PETRONAS event to celebrate the team's 2019 campaign.

"Other teams, drivers, will play a part in the fight as well but obviously Lewis always is a difficult driver to beat. 

"But I've been able to do it at times so I know I can do it."

The grid could have a very different look to by the time 2021 arrives, not least because Hamilton has been linked with a stunning move to Ferrari.

Now only one win away from Michael Schumacher's record of seven drivers' titles, Hamilton stressed it is key to appreciate the successes already achieved rather than look too far ahead.

"It's really, really important always to just be grateful for what I have at the moment," he said.

"Of course, we'll be in search for another championship, but in this sport you never know when that could be.

"It could be next year, it could be years. Some people don't even have one, so it's really important to be grateful for what we have."

Of the challenge ahead of him in 2020, Hamilton added: "Next year I think will be similar to this year. 

"However, I think the competition is probably going to step up. You have seen this year McLaren have picked up, Red Bull have picked up their pace, you have seen some more teams are coming into the spot. 

"It's a little bit easier to chase than it is to lead."

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  • Horner: Hamilton should apologise to Albon Horner: Hamilton should apologise to Albon

    Christian Horner believes Lewis Hamilton should apologise to Alex Albon for a collision that shattered the Red Bull driver's hopes of winning the Austrian Grand Prix.

    Albon looked to be about to pass Hamilton at turn four with 11 laps remaining of the season-opening race on Sunday until he spun out after they touched wheels.

    The Thai driver would have moved up to second behind Valtteri Bottas on soft tyres, giving him a great chance to claim a maiden victory with the Mercedes duo under orders to avoid the kerbs due to gearbox sensor issues.

    Hamilton was demoted to fourth place after being given a five-second penalty for that incident, with Bottas taking victory and Red Bull without a point as Max Verstappen retired.

    Albon was denied a first podium finish due to a collision with Hamilton in Brazil last year and, although he said both drivers were at fault on that occasion, he pointed the finger at the Brit at the Red Bull Ring.

    Red Bull team principal Horner also laid the blame firmly at the door of the six-time Formula One world champion, who felt it was a "racing incident".

    Horner told Sky Sports: "It's been one of those days. Alex drove a great race, he didn't deserve that. Five seconds doesn't do anything for him.

    "He could've won that race. We strategically made the right call, going onto the soft tyres. He was in a strong position. We'll be back in a week's time and trying to rectify it."

    He added: "You'd start to think he's got something in for him. There's a very similar incident the other way round, [where] Alex squeezed him but gave him enough room at the start of the race."

    Horner did not feel Albon paid the price for not being patient enough.

    He said: "You can say that, but he got the job done, the pass was made, it wasn't like it was on the entry. What overtake is safe at the end of the day? I doubt Lewis was ever going to wave him past.

    "We had to use that grip advantage and the grip is in the corners. He'd done that. It was just a misjudgement by Lewis at the end of the day. It'd be good if he apologised for it."

    Horner said coming away from Spielberg without a point was hard to take.

    "Coming out with zero points, having been in a position to challenge for victory with both Max early on, because again we got the tyre call right there and I think he'd have had a really competitive afternoon, then with Alex, in what is going to a shortened season feels pretty brutal."

  • Binotto backs Vettel to bounce back after 'disappointing' weekend for Ferrari Binotto backs Vettel to bounce back after 'disappointing' weekend for Ferrari

    Mattia Binotto backed Sebastian Vettel to respond next week at the Red Bull Ring after a dismal display in a testing weekend for Ferrari at Formula One’s season opener in Austria.

    In the first of two consecutive events in Spielberg as the 2020 campaign belatedly gets underway amid the coronavirus pandemic, Vettel – who will leave the Scuderia at the end of the year – finished 10th.

    The German attempted to dive down the inside of Carlos Sainz, his Ferrari replacement, and was left in a spin, with only debutant Nicholas Latifi trailing him across the line.

    Team-mate Charles Leclerc came second, profiting from Lewis Hamilton's five-second penalty, but team principal Binotto was still not happy with the overall performance after they qualified in seventh and 11th on Saturday.

    "We weren't expecting [Leclerc's podium] at all," Binotto told Sky Sports. "Certainly, we can be happy with the podium but still it's very disappointing for our performance."

    Leclerc said his team had been "perfect" on Sunday, but Binotto acknowledged Vettel's issues.

    He explained: "It has not been his greatest race today. I think he was uncomfortable with the car, the balance of the car. He sensed that the car was not as driveable as it was on Friday.

    "When the driver is in such a condition, he cannot deliver his best. The spin and the contact was certainly not a great action from his side. I think he was cautious a bit.

    "It's a shame because today could have been important to score points, especially when maybe our direct competitors are not scoring many points.

    "It's really a shame, but now we need to understand why the car was not behaving. We hope that next week he can show how good he is."

    Vettel told Ferrari over the team radio his car was "undriveable", meaning he was ultimately just relieved to come through the race relatively unscathed.

    "To be honest, I'm happy that I span only once," said Vettel. "It was very difficult.

    "It got very tight and Carlos turned in and I was just on the edge because I wanted to be as close as possible and lost the rear. But to be honest, I lost the rear a couple of times today, so I'm happy that it only happened once.

    "We don't know [what was wrong] – we need to have a good look – but, for sure, the car was very difficult today.

    "I tried my best, and obviously the safety car helped us. It was quite entertaining in the end but obviously not the result I want."

  • Albon points the finger at Hamilton following Spielberg collision Albon points the finger at Hamilton following Spielberg collision

    Alex Albon was not impressed with Lewis Hamilton after a collision cost the Red Bull driver what he felt was a chance to win the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.

    Albon looked set to pass Hamilton on the outside at turn four and move into second place with 11 laps remaining but spun into the gravel after the two made contact.

    Hamilton went on to cross the line second at the Red Bull Ring behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, though a five-second time penalty for the shunt resulted in him being demoted to fourth.

    Albon cut a disconsolate figure after the opening race of the Formula One season and felt a sense of deja vu, having missed out on a first podium finish following a collision with Hamilton in Brazil last year.

    Albon was in no doubt as to who was at fault this time around in Spielberg, where Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris were second and third respectively.

    "I'm a bit fresh right now, so I'd better be careful what I say. But it is what it is, I really felt we could have won that race," Albon told Sky Sports.

    "Of course, I think Mercedes had the outright pace today, but the guys did a great job with strategy and honestly when I did the pit stop I felt 'where are we' on track, I didn't really know what was going on.

    "As soon as it all played out it looked really strong for us and I knew they were on the hard tyres and the first five laps was when I was going to do the overtakes. I was confident, the car was feeling good at that stage of the race.

    "I feel like this one, I wouldn't say it hurts more, but I felt like Brazil was more like 50-50, this one I felt like I did the move already and I was kind of already focused on Bottas in front. It was so late for contact. 

    "There is always a risk of overtaking on the outside, but I gave as much space as I really could, I knew as long as I could give as much space as I could give him, it's up to him if he wants to crash or not."

    Asked if he would speak to Hamilton about the incident, he replied: "I'll cool off and I'll come back."

    Albon ended up retiring on lap 69 of 71, leaving Red Bull without any points after Max Verstappen was forced to stop racing early on.

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