Valtteri Bottas believes that former team-mate Lewis Hamilton was limited by the raw performance of the W14 this season as his winless streak was extended to two years. However, the Sauber star does think that Mercedes have the ability to return to World Championship contention, although he admitted that catching Red Bull could prove ‘extremely difficult’.
The 34-year-old spent five seasons with the Silver Arrows between 2017 and 2021 after stepping up to replace Nico Rosberg after his shock retirement following a title-winning 2016 campaign. During that time, he helped team-mate Hamilton to four Drivers’ Championship titles while also contributing to five successive Constructors’ Championship triumphs.
However, since his departure from the team at the end of the 2021 season, Mercedes have been on a downward trajectory. The Silver Arrows followed up their Constructors’ Championship title with just one race win in 2022, before going winless throughout the 2023 campaign.
In an exclusive chat with Express Sport, Bottas was asked whether or not Mercedes are capable of bouncing back and fighting for World Championships again, despite losing key staffers such as James Vowles and Mike Elliott.
“I think they can,” he responded. “I think they still do have great people, it’s still a strong team. They have a good leader in the team, good drivers, so I see no reason why not. I mean the only thing is it’s extremely difficult now to beat Red Bull.
“They’ve got great flow, they had a great car this year which meant they could actually, most likely, focus on next year quite early. But it’s up to anyone to just make a faster car really. But I don’t see any reasons why they wouldn’t be able to but their only problem is the Red Bull.”
The Finnish driver was then asked whether Hamilton’s season had been limited by the machinery underneath him after the W14 proved an inconsistent car in terms of balance and raw pace. The seven-time world champion is now without a win in over two years, despite finishing third in the standings this year.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Bottas replied. “He collected a good haul of points compared to his team-mate this year and I think he had a strong year, apart from the last two difficult races at the end, but I think he’s definitely just limited by the machinery. That’s how it goes.”