Lewis Hamilton says “not many people” could perform like his Mercedes Formula 1 team-mate Valtteri Bottas after the Finn’s pole position at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
Bottas will extend his relationship with Mercedes into a fifth season next year, but has often faced external criticism for not taking the fight to Hamilton enough.
Hamilton is easing to a seventh world title and fourth in a row since Bottas joined Mercedes, and has won 39 races to Bottas’s nine in their time as team-mates.
But Bottas bested Hamilton on the final run in Q3 to snatch pole on F1’s return to Imola, his fourth pole in 13 races this season, and has been outdone by Hamilton by less than a tenth on three occasions.
Asked by The Race how high a level Bottas is performing at, Hamilton said: “I don’t really think I need to say much, I mean, jeez, he just got pole position, he’s ahead of me.
“I have more poles than anyone here so it’s not like I’m a slowpoke and so he’s doing an amazing job.
“I think his result today speaks for itself and I don’t really need to say much more. He does his talking on the track and that’s the great thing about Valtteri.
“I don’t think there’s many people that can do what he’s doing, if I’m really honest. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.”
Bottas earned pole at Imola by 0.097s over Hamilton. It is the 15th pole position of his career, putting him 21st on the list of all-time pole positions, and he will bid for a 10th grand prix victory on Sunday that would move him to equal-30th on the winners’ list.
Strong qualifying form has not always translated into consistent Sunday performances from Bottas, who trails Hamilton by seven victories this season.
His second win of the year, in Russia, was greeted with a “fuck you” message to critics after he crossed the line.
Asked by The Race if he felt he was underrated, Bottas said: “I don’t really think about that, how people rate me. It’s something that I think is the wrong area to focus on.
“Sometimes you get criticism, I think everyone does. That’s normal in life, and there’s always people who want to drag you down. I just try to turn it into positive energy and try to use it as a strength.
“So, I’m not really one to comment on [whether I’m] underrated or overrated, whatever, I should not think about that.
“I’m just focusing on my driving, trying to get pole, trying to get wins. That’s my job. That’s what I like to do.”
Bottas said he was left with the “shakes” after his Imola pole lap. The 31-year-old has generally performed well through practice this season before being overhauled by Hamilton, but said a breakthrough late in Saturday’s running helped him turn the tables this time.
“There’s a couple of points on this track, like every track but this one especially with such a limited practice and experience,” he said.
“I had some issues sometimes in Turn 2 with locking up trying to brake too late. Sometimes into the last two corners, downhill braking, I braked too late and that’s why I kind of lost the momentum out of those corners.
“So just small things like that and there was no time to be wasted on the braking, which I wasn’t yet comfortable in places.
“But I’m glad I could get there eventually and in the last run for sure you’re not holding back, you either go for it or go home. I’m glad it was a good enough lap.”