Lewis Hamilton described Valtteri Bottas as “the best teammate there has ever been in this sport” after Mercedes locked out the front row at the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.
The defending champion will retain his title if he wins each of the last two races, which was boosted in Jeddah by Bottas joining him on the front row ahead of championship leader Max Verstappen in third. Verstappen hit the wall at the end of his final lap to end his hopes for pole and Hamilton says it shows how hard the top three were pushing, as he praised Bottas for helping Mercedes improve.
“I think for all of us we were naturally just pushing so hard,” Hamilton said. “The track had shifted a little bit. I don’t know if it’s just the wind, but it made it so difficult with tire temperatures, so we were having to do heavy, quick out laps to try to get these tires working and in the right window, which was very, very odd.
“Very close between us all, but I think the Bulls were definitely faster today. I don’t know if we lost performance or they just gained but still I’m proud of the job that we have all done and I’m proud of the job that Valtteri has done, he nearly beat me out there. That was one of the most intense qualifying sessions we’ve had for a while. I’m grateful for it, even though it’s only the fifth of the year.
“We have worked so hard through simulation, setup, collaboration, just epic with Valtteri who is the best teammate there has ever been in this sport, for sure. We have worked together to work on the setup to get the car where it needs to be, so whoo! Those guys were just so fast. That Bull around this track is something but given where we are, I’m very happy with what we managed to pull out with what we have.”
Front row lockout 🇸🇦
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) December 4, 2021
Hamilton secured his fifth pole position of the season in Jeddah, as Verstappen crashed at the final corner when he looked set to leapfrog both Mercedes drivers on his final lap. Starting two positions ahead of his title rival and with an eight point deficit to make up, Hamilton is well-placed to take the title fight down to the final race but he is wary of the performance he saw from Red Bull on Saturday.
“I think this one was more heart in your mouth for all of us. Yeah, we got that lap right at the end which in the end was good enough but if Max had finished his lap he would have been ahead. Regardless, I’m happy, grateful and we just have to work as a team tomorrow from there.
“We always get close in race pace. I think my long run was good yesterday but they have obviously fixed something yesterday and they are rapid today so I anticipate it will be a close battle through tomorrow but Valtteri and I will be on it.”