Häkkinen: “Valtteri deserves greater credit for the job he has done”

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Amid speculation about Valtteri Bottas’ future with Mercedes, Mika Häkkinen gives his reasons on why he believes Valtteri deserves more credit.

Valtteri Bottas has joined Mercedes in 2017, and has been with the team on a series of one-year contracts ever since.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has admitted the team is going to be making a choice between the Finn and George Russell to complete their 2022 driver line-up.

In a column written for Autosport, two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Häkkinen gave his opinion on why he believes Valtteri has been doing a good job at Mercedes.

“Mercedes knows better than anyone what can happen when you have two drivers fighting each other in a way which can be destructive,” said the Finn.

“Part of Valtteri’s job since he joined them was to work beside Lewis, push as hard as possible, but keep the communication flowing.

“Generating a positive atmosphere in the team and pulling in the same direction is a vital quality. It’s important when you are the dominant team, but becomes critical when you have tough competition.

“Or, as will happen in 2022, an entirely new set of regulations arrive. Regulations which rely on the two drivers working harder than ever to give the team a solid base to work from.

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“Only one team-mate can win the world championship, and to do that they usually have to win more races than everyone else – this includes beating the guy sharing the garage with them.

“When you are both in the same car that battle is never easy. As a world champion you inevitably build the team around you, leaving your team-mate with a lot more work to do.”

Mika then went into more specific situations where he believes Bottas has played a crucial role for the team.

“To time a qualifying run in order to support your team-mate, as Valtteri did in Silverstone when he gave Lewis a tow, or to give way during a race so that the team’s strategy can be maximised, is not easy.

“Mercedes takes a very fair approach, and Valtteri knows his job is to beat the team’s competition, particularly now that Red Bull and Honda have made a major step forward.

“Since moving from Williams to Mercedes I know that Valtteri has never stopped pushing, learning and developing as a driver.

“He scored nine podiums for Williams and helped them to third in the world constructors’ championship for two consecutive years, but he also realised Mercedes was on an entirely different level. A very different challenge.”

Häkkinen also acknowledges the difficulties of being team-mates with arguably the greatest driver in the history of Formula 1.

“As Lewis’s team-mate he has the most formidable competitor beside him. It has been unbelievable to watch how calm, controlled and determined Valtteri has remained, how hard he has continued to work despite the challenge – and easy criticisms.

“He just focuses on attacking each weekend as hard as he can, giving the best of himself for the team.

“There is a popular myth that winning grands prix is easy when you have the best car. That only shows a misunderstanding of the challenge.

“There is nothing easy about winning in F1, whether twenty races for me or nine grands prix for Valtteri. It’s even harder when you have a multiple world champion beside you in the garage.

“For any team aiming to sustain a world championship-winning performance the degree of harmony and focus within the driver line-up is an important ingredient.

“It is one reason why I am certain Valtteri deserves greater credit for the job he has done,” concluded Häkkinen.

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