SAO PAULO (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton has paid homage to his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and described their partner as "the greatest" in the history of Formula One.
Speaking ahead of this weekend (November 10-11) the Brazilian Grand Prix, where Mercedes hopes to win its fifth consecutive constructor title, the new five-time champion adds that Bottas has been fundamental to his success.
"This is the biggest partnership in terms of respect and teamwork from drivers that I'm sure has been in Formula One – maybe.
"This year there are clearly times when he has become a major player in winning races." Hamilton and Bottas need to score 31 points between them to end Ferrari's challenge to win the team title at Interlagos where they only have a simple record.
Hamilton had a pole and won once in Brazil and Bottas secured pole position last year.
After being carried out by Ferrari which was revived in Texas and Mexico, the Mercedes pair will try to regain the initiative of rivals Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
If one driver wins and the other ends in the top seven, Mercedes will win again, but if the Red Scuderia can continue their last form, they have the chance to make the championship alive in the last race in Abu Dhabi.
Ferrari beat Mercedes with 12 points in Texas and 11 in Mexico. If they can beat them with 13 in Brazil, it will retain their title offer.
Many will depend on Hamilton's mindset and mood after winning his fifth title.
In the two seasons in which he won the drivers' title before the season ended, he failed to win another race – so the presence of Bottas could be an important factor for the team.
Since replacing 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, Bottas has helped the team to win 21 races in its entirety and gain total respect and trust from its teammates in England.
Hamilton has acknowledged that and also the importance of sealing another success for Mercedes.
"We really respect each other," he said. "I saw how hard he worked. He saw how hard I worked. We didn't play between them.
"In fact, we work together. There are times when I find something in my set-up and I will tell him and there are times when I can talk to him." Bottas has never won this year and has played a significant number two role in the Hamilton title victory – a role England will play, he said, if their position is reversed.
"In the end, the team doesn't care which driver wins," Hamilton said.