F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Former Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve claims Valtteri Bottas doesn’t have the pace to be a good wingman for teammate Lewis Hamilton in the title fight this season, saying he’s simply not fast enough.
By contrast, the Canadian, who captured the drivers’ world championship in 1997, said he does think Max Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez will get the job done at Red Bull, and will protect the Dutchman when necessary.
Villeneuve’s comments came after Bottas was involved in a high-speed crash with George Russell’s Williams while battling for ninth place during a thrilling Emilia Romagna GP.
The pair collided at Tamburello after Russell lost control on a damp part of the track trying to pass Bottas. The incident brought out the red flag and ruined both of their races.
After a heated and public exchange between the two, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff stated Russell still has “lots to learn” and that the “whole situation is absolutely not amusing for us, to be honest.”
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Mercedes junior driver Russell later issued an apology, saying he “takes responsibility” for the risk he took.
Perez meanwhile qualified at the front of the grid, just behind Hamilton, but just in front of his teammate, who swept past him from third to first with a skilful second-gear launch to eventually take the win.
And Villeneuve believes Perez will be a useful pawn in the title fight this season.
“Perez is the newcomer to the Red Bull team and yet is already stronger than Bottas, who is in his fifth season with Mercedes. Perez can help Max more than Bottas can do for Hamilton,” Villeneuve stated to F1-Insider.com.
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“I therefore don’t quite understand Toto Wolff. Why does he blame the young Brit in the collision with Mercedes junior Russell? Bottas knew exactly that his potential successor was about to overtake him and risked a serious accident with his short move to the right.”
“He mustn’t do that under these difficult track conditions. But this shows how tense Bottas is already in the second race of the season. And that’s not going to get any better, because he is simply too slow.
“If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have had to defend his position so over-hard against a Williams.”
Hamilton had his own issues throughout the race after he admitted he was in “too much of a hurry” to get past others, got on the damp and took a trip through the gravel into the barrier.
He was lucky not to be beached, and managed to get the car into reverse and re-join in P9, helped, ironically, by the red flag that came out almost immediately after thanks to his teammate’s collision with Russell.
“At the start, Lewis should have pulled back against Max as early as the first corner because he was on the outside. But he held on and so ruined his race already in the first corner,” Villeneuve explained.
“Lewis risked too much on the overlap. I doubt that would have happened to him like that in recent years. The red flag, which was triggered by his teammate Valtteri Bottas, saved him. He was very lucky. He shouldn’t rely on that from now on.”
Hamilton takes a single-point lead into round three at the Algarve International Circuit, near Portimão, tied with Verstappen for wins, as the battle continues.
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