World Champion Lewis Hamilton says his points advantage over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas is not reflective of the Finn’s skillset.
Hamilton sealed the 2020 title, his seventh overall and fourth in succession, with victory at the most recent race, held at Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit.
It left Hamilton 110 points clear of Bottas with only 78 still up for grabs across the remaining three events.
Hamilton is on course to finish with his largest margin over his nearest opponent and the biggest since Sebastian Vettel ended the 2013 season 155 points clear of Fernando Alonso.
But Hamilton believes the current gap between the Mercedes drivers has been inflated by Bottas suffering more race-limiting misfortune through 2020.
“Naturally Valtteri has been getting stronger and stronger each year and the media have commented on Valtteri 2.0 etc and every year you can see him grafting and chipping away trying to raise the bar in so many different areas,” said Hamilton.
“You’ve seen this year that, while yes the points gap is what it is, if you look in a lot of the qualifying [sessions] it was the smallest of margins.
“So closing the gap in qualifying, as he has done this year, has made it quite challenging — it already did last year, but I would say more so this year.
“In race trim, naturally, you can see that the consistency I’ve had this year is what’s made the difference.
“But if you look on the race weekends it was so close, but of course there is a points gap of seven points [between first and second] and if you have that consistently over a period of time … Valtteri was also unfortunate with reliability issues, so that makes the gap look even bigger than it is.”
Hamilton also feels that Bottas, who has already been retained by Mercedes for 2021, is underappreciated by external observers.
“People need to give Valtteri his due respect,” said Hamilton. “You’ve got to remember who he is driving up against, it’s not easy being my team-mate, but he comes in weekend-in, weekend-out never moaning or complaining about how the car is.
“It is always that he says he has to do a better job, and I don’t know another driver who does that here.
“I think that’s something we have in common, we come into these weekends with a fresh head and mentally he is one of the strongest drivers here.”