Barcelona, Spain - Lewis Hamilton sent a parting gift to his former Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg ahead of the second pre-season test at Catalunya this week by claiming he already has with Valterri Bottas a “better working relationship than I ever had with any team-mate I had before”, having endured three bitter years with the departed reigning world champion.
Three-times world champion Hamilton spent four seasons at Mercedes alongside Rosberg, but it was not until the pair found themselves in a dominant car in 2014 that their relationship began to deteriorate rapidly.
The two famously crashed last season at Catalunya – scene of Tuesday’s second test – and Austria’s Red Bull Ring, and it caused a rift between the Mercedes drivers that appeared to take its toll on Rosberg the most, with the German announcing his shock retirement shortly after winning his maiden world championship.
Ahead of this week’s final test session, Hamilton addressed his current relationship with new team-mate Bottas, and claimed that their bond already exceeds that of any of his previous colleagues since his Formula One debut in 2007.
“What I so far like about working with Valtteri is that it is all to do with the track – what we do on the circuit – and not outside,” Hamilton said.
“There are no games – there is complete transparency. I like that. I feel we already have a better working relationship than I ever had with any team-mate I had before.
“He wants to do the best thing that he can in his first year with the team – and with me being here for quite a while now, I want to deliver and make sure that I give as much information so that he will learn. And we do our talking on the track!“
Hamilton’s admission, while a thinly-veiled jibe at Rosberg, is hardly surprising. He experienced a monumental breakdown with Fernando Alonso during his debut season at McLaren 10 years ago, with the Spaniard infamously holding him up during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix before the spy-gate scandal cost them any chance of the Constructors’ championship as well as the Drivers’ crown.
He enjoyed better relationships with his next two team-mates at the Woking-based outfit, though he regularly got the better of Heikki Kovalainen and Jenson Button, before leaving for Mercedes to join up with Rosberg.
Bottas, like Kovalainen and Button, is not expected to challenge Hamilton when it comes to the Drivers’ championship this season unless he can adapt rapidly to the Mercedes after his switch from Williams, and the 31-year-old Hamilton has already set his sights on a fourth world championship to equal Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel.
“I am fitter, I am working harder than ever before and I am super focused and driven after last year – when I also worked hard through the year but didn't get the result I wanted,” Hamilton added.
“So I want change and that is what the team and I are working so hard to achieve. I am not really sure, but I don't think that any team has ever won championships across rules changes – and that is the big goal for us.”
And declaring what would satisfy his targets for the Australian Grand Prix in under three weeks’ time, Hamilton answered: “I want pole position, fastest lap, being fastest in every session – and to win.”