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Valtteri Bottas discussed the struggle of Mercedes after a strong weekend for Alfa Romeo in Emilia-Romagna.

Valtteri Bottas has tipped Lewis Hamilton to come back ‘strong’ over the next few races, before admitting that he is keen to pip his former employers after switching to Alfa Romeo this season. The Brit endured a torrid Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which saw him take the chequered flag out of the points in P13.

Lewis Hamilton

Bottas continues to catch the eye for Alfa, who have been one of the season’s early surprise packages. Having taken P5 at Imola, the gap between the Finn and Hamilton is now just four points, which is closer than it was for the vast majority of last year when they both drove for the same team.

Indeed, the story of Mercedes’ season so far is not just one of collective struggle as Hamilton seems to be having a particularly tough time. Last Friday’s qualifying, Saturday’s sprint and Sunday’s Grand Prix presented plenty of opportunities to make up places, but the F1 icon wound up in 13th while George Russell earned another respectable finish in P4.

Bottas knows Lewis Hamilton is better than most, after spending five years as a silver teammate, and the winner of the race 10 times believes that he cannot be held long.

“I would imagine he was stuck behind other cars,” said Bottas, per GPFans, “If there is a DRS train it’s not easy. George had a great start. That was the key to his race, but we will see a strong Lewis still in the coming races.

“I don’t know the reasons why they [Mercedes] are struggling, I don’t know their technical details, but I focus on our things and focus on improving our car, which we did at the weekend and hopefully we can do it in the next race as well. It is surprising. They are still scoring points but hopefully eventually we can score more than them.”

After a prolonged period of off-season silence, 37-year-old Hamilton returned to the F1 grid this season after agonisingly missing out on last year’s title to Max Verstappen. But prospects of revenge are already slipping away this time around, with Verstappen and Charles Leclerc the early front-runners for Red Bull and Ferrari.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff may be feeling the pressure despite the unexpected bonus of Russell’s relative success. Speaking after Sunday’s Grand Prix, he agreed with Bottas on the source of Hamilton’s Imola frustration.

“You see that when there is a DRS train like we had in the Sprint race, none of them could overtake,” claimed the Austrian, “It’s really if you’re being boxed in, in a train of cars, it’s just almost impossible to overtake.

“I think Lewis Hamilton had much more pace than [Pierre] Gasly or [Alex] Albon or all the other guys in front of him, but there’s one DRS straight, and if you haven’t got the straight-line speed, you can’t pass.

“Both drivers are doing the utmost and outperforming the car at the moment. We’ve seen that reaping the results for George, who did an outstanding race, a perfect start and then handled a car that was that wasn’t tuned optimally, and Lewis Hamilton was just stuck there in the back.”