Bottas forcing the issue at Mercedes

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes won the Russian GP. (GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool)

    The rhetoric has belied the reality that Valtteri Bottas is more than a number two driver, and the Finn’s victory at the Austrian Grand Prix has forced those in denial to acknowledge his title credentials.

    Bottas’ second win has moved him within thirty-five points of Sebastian Vettel, though most pertinently, just fifteen points adrift of teammate , Lewis Hamilton, as the season approaches the halfway point.

    On Sunday, as per his maiden triumph at Russia, the Finn withstood a spirited attack from the aforementioned German in the closing laps – remarking that he nursed “a massive blister in the rear left since lap five”, concluding a brilliant fortnight following his recovery drive to second at Azerbaijan.

    Whether he marginally jumped “the start of my life”, is academic, it was a measured performance which proved that he’s no one hit wonder and further proof that he isn’t unnerved by inheriting the leading man role, if anything demonstrating that he revels under the spotlight.

    Flying under the radar in his first campaign for Mercedes, six podiums from nine attempts is one greater than the Briton – notwithstanding the latter’s issues at recent events, while he’s yet to line up on the grid lower than third, thus his ‘entry’ into championship calculations shouldn’t be a shock.

    Despite proving his team playing abilities at Bahrain and Spain, the 27-year-old hasn’t condemned himself to a supporting role as many prior have, conversely maximising all opportunities, especially when Hamilton is out of contention.

    Coupled with Kimi Räikkönen’s inability to execute a clean weekend, this has contributed to the Brackley outfit’s handy lead in the constructors standings, and keeps Mercedes flexible in the immediate term.

    Few opportunities for intra-team conflict have surfaced to date, which would please the German manufacturer to no end, yet the fact that there is a variable in Vettel who commands Ferrari’s full support, means each stands to neutralise the other’s charge so long as the German continues to amass solid points without necessarily standing atop the podium.

    Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes waves to Formula One fans and media.

    (Image supplied by AMG Petronas Motorsport).

    More than fleeting parallels to the timeless 2007 showdown are becoming apparent, only in this instance the Maranello protagonist enjoys a significant advantage, affording little room for the Mercedes pair to induce friendly fire without consequence. This could present a greater problem for Hamilton should it come to pass that Bottas finds himself on a superior strategy.

    The Briton is noted for his desire to allow fate to determine the outcome rather than submitting to pitwall’s directives, and while both drivers can remain well within contention for the title, if it’s at the detriment of a potential race victories, headaches endured in previous seasons are foreseeable.

    In fairness to the three-time champion, he has enjoyed an edge when the two have run unaffected – comfortably shading Bottas at Canada, though the latter’s strong upturn in form after finding his feet at initial events, his evidently growing confidence and the realisation that a tilt at the crown is within reach, means Hamilton shouldn’t anticipate a timid Finn when crucial points are on the line.

    Under the circumstances of an unexpected ascension to the ride of a lifetime, in tandem with the uncertainty surrounding his future beyond this season, Bottas has already justified Mercedes’ leap of faith. Wherever he shakes out in November, it stands to prove the German marque’s loss if he were to be moved on following a solitary campaign, though for now he’s provided them with a welcome dilemma which could yet witness a reprisal of the fireworks on display involving his predecessor.