Lewis Hamilton sends warning to Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas

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Lewis Hamilton has warned Valtteri Bottas he will not hand him anymore free passes.

Hamilton admitted to giving his Mercedes team-mate an easy ride following their first-lap tussle at the previous round in Azerbaijan.

Bottas went on to take the chequered flag, claiming his second victory of the season, and move one point ahead of Hamilton in the standings.

With Ferrari stuttering this year – Sebastian Vettel is already 35 points off the championship summit – Bottas could prove Hamilton’s closest challenger for a sixth world crown.

  1. Valtteri Bottas – 87 points
  2. Lewis Hamilton – 86
  3. Sebastian Vettel – 52
  4. Max Verstappen – 51
  5. Charles Leclerc – 47

So, will the Brit change his courteous approach?

“We are not going to be touching, but in terms of giving up positions, that won’t happen again,” replied the 34-year-old ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“I will always be respectful, but we will see.”

Hamilton’s relationship with former team-mate Nico Rosberg became untenable after three years of fighting for the title.

Naturally, Mercedes are keen to avoid a repeat scenario.

Hamilton added: “It is going to be tight between Valtteri and I. Tensions will be there, because that is always the case when you want to beat someone else. We want to win the championship individually.

“But what we are paid to do is win and deliver for Mercedes, and as long as we remember that, we won’t have any problems.”

Hamilton was also keen to mention that Riccardo Musconi – the performance engineer who had overseen his recent championship triumphs – has moved to Bottas’ side of the garage this year, earning a promotion within the team as the Finn’s race engineer.

The Ferrari cars dominated pre-season testing here in Spain, and the German insists they must return to those heights to stop Mercedes galloping into the distance.

The four-time world champion will be boosted by an updated Ferrari engine, brought forward from its original release date of the race in Canada next month.

“We need to start scoring points, the sooner the better,” said Vettel, who has not triumphed since last August’s Belgian Grand Prix – a streak of 12 races.

“The longer it goes on, the worse it looks. We are slightly behind, but we know it is not a long way. Everyone is fired up, and we are willing to fight.

“We were in a better place last year, but the spirit in the team is as good, if not better.”

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