Mika Hakkinen thinks that Valtteri Bottas deserves more credit for what he has done during his time at Mercedes.
The Finn - who joined the team in 2017 - is potentially facing the prospect of losing his seat at the Silver Arrows in 2022, with Toto Wolff having previously said that it will either be Bottas or George Russell who races alongside Lewis Hamilton next year. Whilst Bottas has received some criticism at times, Hakkinen is full of praise for how the 31-year-old has handled the job of competing against Hamilton.
"As Lewis’s teammate he has the most formidable competitor beside him," Hakkinen told Motorsport.com. "It has been unbelievable to watch how calm, controlled and determined Valtteri has remained, how hard he has continued to work despite the challenge - and easy criticisms.
"He just focuses on attacking each weekend as hard as he can, giving the best of himself for the team.
"There is a popular myth that winning grands prix is easy when you have the best car. That only shows a misunderstanding of the challenge.
"There is nothing easy about winning in F1, whether twenty races for me or nine grands prix for Valtteri. It’s even harder when you have a multiple world champion beside you in the garage.
"For any team aiming to sustain a world championship-winning performance the degree of harmony and focus within the driver line-up is an important ingredient. It is one reason why I am certain Valtteri deserves greater credit for the job he has done."
Hakkinen believes that Bottas learned a lot when he made the step up from Williams to Mercedes, having been brought in to replace Nico Rosberg following the German's decision to retire from Formula 1 at the end of 2016.
"To time a qualifying run in order to support your teammate, as Valtteri did in Silverstone when he gave Lewis a tow, or to give way during a race so that the team’s strategy can be maximised, is not easy," Hakkinen explained.
"Mercedes takes a very fair approach, and Valtteri knows his job is to beat the team’s competition, particularly now that Red Bull and Honda have made a major step forward.
"Since moving from Williams to Mercedes I know that Valtteri has never stopped pushing, learning and developing as a driver. He scored nine podiums for Williams and helped them to third in the world constructors' championship for two consecutive years, but he also realised Mercedes was on an entirely different level. A very different challenge.
"When I moved from Team Lotus to McLaren it was a similar experience. I knew I was in the right place, with the right people and technology around me, so it felt like a huge release. However, when you join a team where the people know how to succeed, you have so much to learn. Valtteri has taken the same approach."
Hakkinen won his two world titles in 1998 and 1999 when racing for McLaren alongside David Coulthard, and thinks that having a supportive teammate is vital in being able to achieve such a feat.
"It is very easy to talk about someone who is world champion, winning all the time, and to then criticise their teammate. It’s an easy comparison, but one which avoids the big picture of what it’s like to be one-half of a championship winning team. I won two world championships partly because ‘DC’ was such a strong teammate."
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