With Red Bull posing a bigger challenge to Mercedes, 1996 F1 champion Damon Hill says the team might start prioritizing Hamilton over Bottas.
Although Mercedes managed to beat Red Bull in the first race of the 2021 season, everybody seems to agree that the Austrian team currently has the faster car. Damon Hill believes this will force Mercedes to start prioritizing Lewis Hamilton over Valtteri Bottas.
“Any kind of external threat unites a team,” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.
“So for years now, we’ve had Mercedes fighting amongst themselves between drivers for the title and occasional incursions from people like Red Bull or Ferrari, but now they have an external threat.
“So I think that that you’ll see that teamwork solidifying behind Lewis, their main campaigner. They know that Lewis is their strongest card in their pack.
“I think he demonstrated that magnificently in Bahrain.”
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The 1996 champion is referring to Hamilton’s spectacular drive at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, where he managed to hold off Max Verstappen in a slower car and on older tyres.
“I know for a fact that Red Bull were scratching their heads after Bahrain, because they knew that Lewis had done something slightly magical by staying ahead of their car, which they felt was slightly better.
“But what it means is that these two teams are going to put their best man forward. And it’s going to be, you know, an arrowhead-type attack between those two teams.
“I think if you’ve got two guys within a team, and you’ve got an external threat, which is what happened with me in the Williams team.
“I had David Coulthard [as team-mate] who could also win races. So I had David to fight as well as Goliath – Michael Schumacher.
“It can go wrong if you’re not careful,” concluded Hill.