Lewis Hamilton deserved to be world champion, says teammate Bottas

Valtteri Bottas believes Lewis Hamilton deserved to be crowned Formula One world champion and was “gutted” his Mercedes teammate was pipped to the title by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Hamilton was denied a record eighth drivers’ crown – and fifth in a row – after being overtaken by Verstappen in a nerve-shredding final lap at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the Dutchman claimed his maiden title.

While Verstappen revealed he was sent a congratulatory text by the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, saying he “deserved to win it”, Bottas, who will race for Alfa Romeo next year, felt the same way about Hamilton.

“It hurts that Lewis didn’t get the drivers’; I feel like I lost the championship because he lost it,” Bottas said on the official F1 website. “I really feel gutted for him because I feel like he deserved it.”

Mercedes, who had the consolation of winning the constructors’ championship for an eighth successive season, twice failed with appeals following a highly controversial end to the 2021 campaign in the United Arab Emirates. The deployment of the safety car after a late crash wiped out the chunky lead Hamilton had built over the course of the race and Verstappen had the advantage for a last-lap shoot-out as he was on fresh tyres.

Bottas said: “Lewis had a great race and then things change like this. But you know, that’s just sport, that’s just how it is. Sometimes it goes against, sometimes it goes for you.”

Bottas, who succeeded Nico Rosberg at Mercedes before the 2017 season, finished runner-up in the drivers’ standings to teammate Hamilton in 2019 and 2020 and is now relishing a fresh adventure. He said: “Now it’s time for something new. I’m really, really proud and thankful what we’ve achieved together. We’ve done great things.”

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel, who won two of his four world titles in the final races in 2010 and 2012, said he felt sorry for Hamilton. Vettel also had sympathy for Hamilton.

“I’m happy for Max, but I’m mostly sorry for Lewis,” he told Autosport. “I think he had an incredible end to the season. And to be honest, in my point of view, I don’t care who wins, but I think they both deserve it. In the end only one can take it. So yeah, it was an intense fight, good for the sport. And you know, it’s always obviously if you’re the lucky one, it’s great. If you’re not, it’s not great.”