By Marcelo Teixeira
SAOPAULO (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton has no plans to gift any wins to Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas despite having a fifth Formula One championship sewn up.
The Briton has won nine of the 19 races so far this season while Bottas, who has dutifully obeyed team orders to help Hamilton and endured agonising bad luck while leading, has yet to triumph.
Asked at the Brazilian Grand Prix whether he would let the Finn win were he in a position to do so, Hamilton told reporters that would be a decision for Mercedes to make.
“I don’t think he is going to want that, he is going to win one on his own, in his own way,” added the 33-year-old, who clinched the drivers’ title with two races to spare in Mexico last month.
Bottas has won three races since he joined Mercedes last year as a replacement for retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.
He started on pole position in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, the last two races of the season, last year and won the latter with Hamilton second.
Hamilton hailed Bottas’s contribution after winning the championship in Mexico, and has emphasised how well they get on as team mates.
“One of the most difficult moments of the year was in Russia for me,” he had said in Mexico City, referring to a race in which Bottas was asked to move aside to let him win.
“We have such a huge respect for each other… it’s the greatest partnership in terms of respect and teamwork from drivers that has ever existed in Formula One probably.”
Mercedes can seal the constructors’ championship at Interlagos for the fifth year in a row, providing Ferrari do not score 13 points more than them, and that will be the team’s absolute focus.
Hamilton has won only once before in Brazil, in 2016, and in those years where he has wrapped up the title with races to spare has failed to triumph afterwards.
The Briton was third in Texas and then fourth in Mexico last month after racking up four wins in a row as he sensed the title beckoning.
“If you look at the last two races you will see that we kind of struggled, so I don’t really have an idea of how it is going to be in the next couple of races,” he said.
“It’s difficult to explain why it has been tough for us, particularly in this last one, but I really hope the car this weekend feels more normal and we are more competitive.
“We still have a job to do on this weekend, to win the constructors title, so the focus remains absolutely the same. It’s not always easy to find solutions. There’s a lot of work to do, even at this point of the year.”
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)