F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Former F1 driver John Watson has backed Valtteri Bottas to remain alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, adding he believes the seven-time world champion would prefer a “compliant team-mate” in the Finn, rather than “a young lion” in George Russell.
Watson is the latest former driver to give his view on the growing speculation that Russell may partner Hamilton next season, with boss Toto Wolff hinting there could be a decision in the next few weeks.
Bottas signed a one-year deal at the end of last season, with Russell also a free agent from Williams at the end of the year – with both battling it out to occupy the second seat at the world champions.
But Watson, who finished third for McLaren in the 1982 championship, believes the equation is quite simple to solve, and Hamilton will have a clear idea in his head who he’d like alongside him in 2022.
“My thoughts are that Lewis would like to keep Bottas, because he is what I would call a compliant team-mate,” Watson told RacingNews365.com.
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“What he doesn’t want is [to be paired with] someone like George, who did a stunning job last year in Bahrain.
“Lewis is in a position of great authority and power within the Mercedes team, within the Mercedes family.
“There is a very good reason behind why Lewis was prepared to have Bottas. If you bring in a young lion like George, who I think is outstanding… I’ve seen over the years where you bring in two drivers who then end up fighting each other in the championship, you open the door to another team.
“I think that, at the end of the day, Mercedes will keep Bottas, simply because it’s a known commodity.”
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Russell sent ripples through the paddock at the end of the 2020 season, as he stepped into Hamilton’s shoes at the Sakhir Grand Prix as the seven-time world champion recovered from COVID-19.
The Mercedes-backed driver very nearly went on to win the race but was struck with bad luck after a pit stop error and a puncture that relegated him to P9 at the end of the race.
But it was a performance to remember in the paddock, with boss Toto Wolff adding it would be a straight fight between the 23-year-old and Bottas for the second seat.
“I’d love to see George in a Mercedes,” added Watson.
“But if that was going to be the case, George would have to accept that he will have to play second fiddle to Lewis, in any time they were together.”
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