Lewis Hamilton responds to F1 teammate's bombshell switch

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have been Mercedes F1 teammates since 2017.
Lewis Hamilton has spoken fondly of outgoing teammate Valtteri Bottas, with the pair having raced together for Mercedes since 2017. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has paid tribute to departing Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who has joined Alfa-Romeo on a multi-year deal.

Bottas has raced alongside Hamilton since joining the champion Mercedes ahead of the 2017 season, following the shock retirement of 2016 champion Nico Rosberg.

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The 32-year-old had been widely rumoured to leave the team at the end of the 2021 season, with Williams hot-shot George Russell having been heavily favoured to win the seat from the Finnish driver.

Though he has proven himself to be a more than capable teammate to Hamilton, difficult seasons in 2019 and 2020, couple with an inauspicious start to this season, meant it was more than likely Bottas would eventually make way for a younger teammate.

A race winner on his day nonetheless, Bottas will have his work cut out for him trying to elevate an Alfa-Romeo outfit which has spent the last few seasons mired in the bottom half of the grid.

Bottas is set to replace outgoing F1 veteran and fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who announced his retirement ahead of the Dutch GP.

"A new chapter in my racing career is opening," the 32-year-old Finn Bottas said on the Alfa Romeo homepage.

"I'm grateful for the trust the team has put in me and I cannot wait to repay their faith: I'm as hungry as ever to race for results and, when the time comes, for wins."

Bottas won nine grands prix in his time with the team.

Lewis Hamilton pays tribute to Valtteri Bottas after Mercedes exit

Reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton was among the first to pay tribute to Bottas, having benefited several times from the Finn's teamwork over the past few seasons.

Hamilton described Bottas as the best teammate he'd had, adding that Mercedes' dominance of the constructor's championship, in addition to Hamilton's individual wins, would not have been possible without Bottas' contributions.

“I’m immensely proud to have worked alongside (Bottas) for the last five years," Hamilton posted on Instagram.

"Together, we’ve been part of a team that has delivered four Constructors’ Championships, and we’ve motivated one another to keep pushing through the ups and the downs.

“He has been the best teammate I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Your speed and resilience has been impressive but where you truly stand out to me is the human being you are. You are greater than you know and I know there’s a bright future ahead for you.

“Thank you Valtteri for all of your support and amazing contributions to this team. You will be missed. I wish you all the best for your future endeavours. Let’s finish off strong and get that 8th for the team.”

While a solid understudy to Hamilton, Bottas rarely looked capable of challenging for a world title and Russell, 23, has impressed both in a limited Williams car and while deputising for Hamilton when he had the coronavirus at the end of last season.

Russell could be announced as a Mercedes driver for 2022 as early as Tuesday.

"I am so proud of everything we have achieved together in my time with Mercedes - and it is not over yet, because we have our biggest challenge so far to try and claim our eighth constructors' title," said Bottas

"When I look back on my time with Mercedes, I want to be able to say that I squeezed every drop out of this opportunity and left nothing on the table; and I want to make sure that we finish our time together as champions."

With AAP

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