Mercedes deny Bottas has to defend his place after 'insane bad luck' in 2020

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Valtteri Bottas doesn't have to defend his place at Mercedes after suffering "insane bad luck" during 2020, Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff claim.

The Finn finished 124 points behind the now seven-time world champion last year, claiming just two victories in contrast to Hamilton's 11 in the shortened season.

Furthermore, an impressive stand-in performance by Mercedes junior George Russell at the Sakhir Grand Prix also led to question marks over Bottas' future at the team beyond 2021.

However, despite the difficult year, Hamilton has continued to defend the 31-year-old.

"I don't know how many more nice words I can say about Valtteri," he told

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“I don’t think he needs to defend his performance and I don’t feel like I need to. I think he’s continued to work at it and we’ve definitely had very close qualifyings, particularly this year.

“Like I’ve said before, it’s never easy having strong teammates. It’s a constant battle between you, both mentally and emotionally throughout the year.

“What’s really great with us is that we fight it out hard on-track but then when we’re outside, we manage to maintain a gentleman working relationship and I think that’s a big showing of his personality and character as a man.

“I know next year he will take more steps, so I’ve got to work away and figure out how I can find some more speed for next year.”

Mercedes boss Wolff agreed, noting the multiple occasions where Bottas lost out through no fault of his own.

“This season, Valtteri has had insane bad luck," the Austrian stated.

“Several punctures that shouldn’t have happened, red flags as he led easily [at Mugello]. If I didn’t know he has an absolutely solid mind… A driver might start to wonder why this happens to him, but not Valtteri.

“He’s so solid, so tough and tenacious; that’s only going to make him stronger. I’m sorry for him, that he had all these problems in one season when he could have won three, four or five races and be second with a good lead.

“I think he’s got the right frame of mind. He had a couple of very, very tough weekends and got over it.

“Even at the end of the season when the championships were decided, he bounced back. I think that’s the mentality of a fighter.”

And Bottas displayed that mindset as he looked back on his 2020 season.

“It was extremely close many, many times this year and even in top three as well. We had good qualifying battles with Lewis,” he said via RaceFans.

“Obviously in the races more often, as the points show, he got the upper hand, but I can’t really say that qualifying was the biggest thing that I improved.

“I would say actually the race pace overall this year was a little bit better, but obviously, there’s always more work to do.

“Of course I didn’t meet my targets for the year in terms of results… but still now looking at the big picture, there’s so many positive things and so many more lessons learnt about driving and about myself and everything that I can again carry into next year and really turn that into a strength and try again.”