Lewis Hamilton's 'natural ability is fantastic' says Button
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Former Renault Formula One driver Jolyon Palmer has suggested that Valtteri Bottas would have been subjected to the wrath of Toto Wolff and Mercedes if Lewis Hamilton had failed to win the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. The seven-time world champion sealed his 98th Grand Prix victory with a faultless performance at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, successfully chasing down Red Bull’s Max Verstappen during the closing stages to claim the spoils.
The result saw Hamilton extend his early lead over the Dutchman to 14 points, with the pair set to battle it out for the Drivers’ Championship title between now and the end of the season.
Meanwhile, Bottas finds himself well adrift of his decorated team-mate once again, with his title charge already all but over.
His career at Mercedes continues to be defined by his supporting role within the team when compared to Hamilton.
The Finn has often been asked to allow the Stevenage-born racer to pass him on track, a request that was made once again in Spain, with third-placed Hamilton on fresher tyres and pushing hard.
However, Bottas appeared to ignore the call, forcing Hamilton to overtake on merit after snubbing a number of opportunities to let him through.
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The 31-year-old’s uncharacteristic show of defiance had the potential to thwart his Mercedes colleague’s progress up the field, but ultimately had no bearing on the outcome of the race.
Despite this, Palmer has claimed that the Silver Arrows would not have been impressed with Bottas’ actions, suggesting that Hamilton’s victory saved him from being faced with harsh consequences behind closed doors.
“In Barcelona, you could argue Bottas was actually more helpful to Verstappen than Hamilton in the Grand Prix,” Palmer wrote in his column for the F1 website.
“Hamilton winning has meant Mercedes can gloss over the fact, but if he had narrowly missed out, there would have been a serious fallout from the situation.”
Although Bottas is unlikely to have pleased many within the Mercedes camp as a result of his reluctance to obey team orders, Palmer sympathised with the nine-time Grand Prix winner, admitting that it can be hugely difficult to stand down to your team-mate and biggest rival.
“From a driver’s point of view, getting out of the way of your team-mate in a race can often feel like the final nail in the coffin for the afternoon,” he added.
“Particularly if you are on a different strategy, which is usually the reason you are being told to move out of the way in the first place. It shows clearly that your team is fully backing your team mate and relatively disregarding your chances at that stage.
“But whilst it’s frustrating, you’ve got to consider things on a case-by-case basis, and fundamentally remember who pays the bills.
“If Bottas had been asked to give up a win on Sunday then I’m sure there would be some question marks again, and maybe he wouldn’t have obliged at all.
“But this call from Mercedes helped Hamilton to win the race, at no cost to Bottas – he was pretty set in third whatever happened.”
It remains to be seen whether Bottas will be able to seal a rare victory over Hamilton at the Monaco Grand Prix later this month.
The latter revealed after the race in Barcelona that there is no bad blood between the two Mercedes team-mates, admitting that he was unaware of the order to gift him the position.
“We’re the best team-mates,” Hamilton told reporters. “Honestly, I didn’t know that he had a message, so in my mind I was like: ‘We’re racing’.
“And that’s totally fine for me, particularly early on in this part of the season. So in my mind I was like: ‘I have to get close and go for an overtake’.
“We were on massively different strategies, so I was going to get him at some stage because I had much better tyres. We were going into Turn 10 and I thought there was a gap there but I wasn’t quite sure, and then there was a gap and Valtteri was completely fair – I hope I didn’t lose him much time.
“This is how we win as a team. Sometimes we’re in that position where we have to put the team first.”
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