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Valtteri Bottas’ fellow countryman Heikki Kovalainen, who raced alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2008 and 2009, has some choice advice for Bottas, as he revealed on the latest Beyond The Grid podcast.
Kovalainen spent two seasons with McLaren but never quite took the fight to Hamilton in the way Bottas has managed. And now he has explained the insight he gave his fellow Finn into Hamilton’s driving style.
“Only a few times I have spoken to him [Bottas] after some Grands Prix – he was doing his first year at, I think it was Mercedes [in 2017], he had a few races where he was struggling with tyre wear more than Lewis,” Kovalainen said.
“And especially rear tyre [wear], he was unable to keep the soft tyre alive as well as Lewis, and I remember, we talked and I think it was after Bahrain… we talked about that and I was telling him my experience about Lewis.
“I said, just pay attention: ‘his braking and his kind of low-speed style, if you like, keep an eye on that because that’s where he’s really strong.’ And I think Valtteri agreed with that, but I haven’t given him any tips – I think he can figure it out himself and he’s done very well over the years, I thought. But yeah, we’ve had small chats every now and then.”
That ‘low-speed style’ of driving is where Kovalainen found Hamilton excelled in his McLaren years.
“I was loading the tyres, I was making corners quite long and that’s kind of my driving style and I remember at McLaren the engineers were also saying Fernando’s [Alonso’s] style [was] a bit similar, Kimi’s [Raikkonen’s] style and Mika’s [Hakkinen’s] style – they all carry a lot of speed into the corner and they make corners very long. Whereas Lewis, he arrives, brakes late, turns the car sharp and has a straighter exit so that the tyre has less energy and I remember that particular area: the braking areas were always where I was struggling against him.”