Valtteri Bottas has been urged to improve by former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve after struggling to keep up with rookie teammate Zhou Guanyu at the recent Azerbaijan and Canadian Grands Prix.
Bottas comfortably held the advantage over Zhou at the start of the 2022 season, leading Alfa Romeo's charge in the chasing pack behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
However, the 10-time Grand Prix winner was out-qualified by the F2 graduate for the first time in Baku, admitting he was "in another league" of performance.
This reversal of intra-team fortunes continued in Montreal, where Zhou posted a lap time more than half a second quicker than Bottas in wet conditions to seal a place in Q3.
Villeneuve: Bottas should be easily ahead of Zhou
Discussing the developing situation at his former team, Villeneuve told the F1 Nation podcast that Bottas has no excuse for trailing Zhou as the rookie adjusts to F1.
His comments came after it was put to him that Bottas might have been lacking confidence after sitting out FP2 in Canada due to technical issues.
"Zhou has never been on this track and he didn't get much mileage either, so no, Bottas this year should never, ever get beaten by Zhou," said Villeneuve.
"It's just not on. Not a driver of his experience that has won so many races. This should not happen, mostly on a track that Zhou has not been on.
"I don't know if it's because he got used to not beating Lewis [Hamilton] and that set him back a little bit. Then he had an easy beginning of the year.
"He was looking good, running at the front, destroying Zhou, and suddenly, Zhou is showing that he is quick.
"We're not seeing the best Valtteri that we could, or that we should, right now. He should be easily ahead of Zhou."
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The difference between Bottas and Hamilton
Prior to arriving at Alfa Romeo, Bottas spent five seasons alongside Hamilton at Mercedes, contributing to a string of Constructors' titles.
But while he managed to notch up those aforementioned 10 victories, he was never able to sustain an individual title challenge.
"He's a very nice guy. He's quick. He's super fast. He's beaten Lewis on the odd race, but not on a season," Villeneuve continued in his evaluation of the Finn.
"That's the difference from a champion like Lewis, that has won so many races, that has won on every kind of track and [in] every kind of conditions, and someone like Valtteri.
"At times [he] can be super quick, but not over a season, and he's demonstrated that every year."
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