Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he felt pressure going up against a revitalised ‘Valtteri Bottas 2.0’ at the start of the 2019 season.
Bottas won last year’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix in commanding fashion, beating Mercedes team-mate Hamilton by more than 20 seconds, though damaged that Hamilton sustained during the race contributed to that gap.
That victory, plus fastest lap, came in response to a lacklustre end to the 2018 season for Bottas, whose “To whom it may concern, fuck you” message over Mercedes’ team radio after the Melbourne race added to comments about a ‘Bottas 2.0’ image.
Though Hamilton responded with victories in Bahrain and China, Bottas briefly reclaimed the points’ lead by winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in late April.
“Qualifying was good in Melbourne but I lost the race,” said Hamilton. “I had the damage and I fell back quite far.
“[The] first couple of races are usually not perfect for me. They’re still not bad, still better than average, but then there’s all the outside pressures of ‘Valtteri 2.0’ and I’m thinking, ‘We’re 2-2 at one stage, two wins apiece’.
“I’ve got to stay solid in my mind, I can’t allow the outside [factors to affect me]… but being human it’s very hard not to notice those things.”
Hamilton went on a run of four consecutive race wins after the Baku event to put breathing space between himself and Bottas, and won five more times across the remainder of the season as he landed a sixth world title.
His final points tally of 413 was also the highest he has achieved in a single season.
Asked if he had prioritised a more consistent campaign over one featuring “wow moments”, Hamilton said: “More consistency within the race was really important for me.
“So other areas in just health aspects, weekend in, weekend out delivering.
“It’s crazy because we got to August and I’m thinking, ‘Jeez, I’ve had eight wins,’ and as a team we’ve had like 14 wins [Mercedes won 15 races in 2019] and you kind of forget those things because you’re just always looking forwards and time is always ticking.
“But it was not intentional not to wow.
“I’ve been searching for that wow lap this year. And honestly I’ve had good laps but they’ve not shown in the order, necessarily.
“I think some of my second places that split up the Ferraris, for me felt like relatively quite wow laps but because I wasn’t on pole by half a second it doesn’t appear that way for you.
“But for me internally it did.”