Valtteri Bottas has proclaimed his opinion that ex-Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton is still the fastest driver in Formula 1.
The seven-time World Champion is currently on the longest winless streak of his esteemed career, having struggled in under-performing machinery since the beginning of 2022, though he still managed to make it onto the podium nine times last season.
Hamilton often opted to take experimental set-ups with the team’s troublesome W13 in the first half of last year, with new team-mate George Russell consistently delivering performances that would eventually see him finish above his older colleague in the Drivers’ Championship come season’s end, as well as taking the team’s only win of the year at Interlagos in a 1-2 finish.
While Mercedes had looked to get back into World Championship-winning form in 2023, they have begun the year just as far off Red Bull’s pace as last season, with significant changes coming to the W14 in the coming races and a large upgrade package due at the next round at Imola.
Even though Hamilton does not have the fastest car in Formula 1 at the moment, the now-Alfa Romeo driver thinks his former colleague still possesses the most outright speed of anyone in the sport.
“I think he’s still the quickest driver on the grid,” Bottas told the Beyond the Grid podcast.
When pressed and asked if he’s even faster than the likes of Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, Bottas doubled down: “Yeah. To me, he’s the fastest.”
The Finn knows better than anyone how it feels to share a garage with Hamilton, with his five seasons alongside him at Mercedes making him the Briton’s longest-associated team-mate in his career.
And when asked what it is that separates the seven-time champion from the rest in terms of how he goes about his work, Bottas revealed an often-unseen secret behind Hamilton’s success that is not captured by the cameras in the paddock.
“Well, first of all, he’s annoyingly talented, but on top of that, he works way harder than people actually think outside the race weekends,” Bottas explained.
“And in the race weekends, he’s quite often the last person to leave from the paddock. It’s just that combination and he’s got big drive inside him to always deliver and do well.
“His average baseline performance is so good and then he’s really consistent as well, so it makes him hard to beat. When I could beat him, that was obviously a good day, but on average, I never quite managed to.”