Valtteri Bottas believes Lewis Hamilton deserved to be crowned Formula One world champion and was “gutted” his Mercedes team-mate 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 Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, saying he “deserved to win it”, Bottas, who will race for Alfa Romeo next year, feels differently.
“It hurts that Lewis didn’t get the drivers’, I feel like I lost the championship because he lost it,” Bottas said in quotes 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 the pair were on different tyres.
Bottas added: “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 ahead of the 2017 season, finished runner-up in the drivers’ standings to team-mate Hamilton in 2019 and 2020 and is now relishing a fresh adventure.
He added: “Now it’s time for something new. I’m really, really proud and thankful what we’ve achieved together. We’ve done great things.
“It wasn’t maybe the best race to finish it, but you need to look at the big picture. We’ve won five constructors’. With Lewis we’ve been the most successful team-mate pairing in the history of Formula 1, so it’s kind of sad to leave – but of course I look forward to the future.”