Felipe Massa has put Valtteri Bottas' recent struggles down to a psychological issue rather than a technical one.
The Finn had a difficult start to the 2021 F1 season in the first two races of the year, with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix a particular low point following his controversial crash with George Russell. Massa - who was Bottas' teammate at Williams for three years - believes that the strain of battling against fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton may be taking its toll.
"I think Bottas' performance is linked to a mental issue," Massa told Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is not easy to compare yourself with a champion like Lewis Hamilton."
The Brazilian thinks that Sebastian Vettel is also facing a similar issue, having endured a tough start to his first season at the Aston Martin team following a difficult end to his time as a Ferrari driver.
"The same goes for Vettel too. Both are experiencing a delicate situation," Massa explained.
For Bottas, his struggles may not be helped by the continued speculation over whether Russell may be given an opportunity at Mercedes in the not-too-distant future.
Massa for one believes that Russell deserves the chance, despite the fact that the Williams driver's behaviour and comments after the Bottas incident did not appear to have gone down well with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
"George is really a super driver, although he made a mistake at Imola," Massa said. "He deserves a chance and hopefully Mercedes will give him that chance sooner or later.
"I appreciated the fact that he also apologised when he calmed down, that was a sign of his maturity, that he dared to say he was wrong."
Massa left Formula 1 at the end of 2017. Some of his former rivals - such as Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen - are still on the grid, but the Brazilian does not feel any envy towards them.
"I am just happy for them and support them. Although, of course, there is not much time left for them to enjoy racing, eventually it stops for everyone."