Bottas forcing the issue at Mercedes

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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7 Have your say

    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.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Rookie

      July 11th 2017 @ 7:20pm
      Chancho said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

      Do you really think there’s a chance Mercedes will not continue on with Bottas at the end of the season? I know he only has a 1-yr deal but to my mind he’s done enough to stay… not only that, but he’s now a contender and is probably a considerable amount cheaper than Lewis. What I mean by that is that Lewis’s contract comes up soon from what I remember, and if he’s pushing his value too much Mercedes have a good benchmark.

      Just on the Austrian GP I found the race quite a strange one… people are saying that given the winning margin, it was the quick reaction that won it for Bottas; but I’m not so sure that’s the case. It seemed to me that Vettel wasn’t pushing in those early 15 laps because he was banking on a penalty for Bottas. I don’t have the data to back that up but that was how it looked to me.

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 8:29pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | July 11th 2017 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

        At this stage, his retention through 2018 is likelier, if only to remain flexible for the majority of big names entering the market – which renders an Alonso berth remote, coupled with talk of Vettel extending at Ferrari for a solitary season in sync with others’ contracts expiring. Bottas himself is certainly providing Mercedes food for thought with his consistency if Hamilton’s baggage eventually proves too much.

        It’s easy to say this action, that action, or lack of action in Bottas’ case would have changed the outcome, yet he drove a measured race and probably could have pushed harder earlier if Vettel had been more aggressive from the outset, and displays that drivers shouldn’t rely on events playing out as they foresee and simply falling into their hands.

        • Roar Rookie

          July 11th 2017 @ 9:11pm
          Chancho said | July 11th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

          Ferrari clearly have a decision to make; Perez or Sainz. I think Perez will go to Ferrari… I don’t know why, I think of those 2 he has the experience which Ferrari like and the Claro sponsorship maybe the deciding factor? I’m just thinking of the things that stack up.

          Max and Ricciardo aren’t going anywhere in 2018.

          Alonso, I have a feeling will retire from F1 at the end of the season and race Indy Cars with a view to also compete at Le Mans to get the triple crown… so he’s not in the mix.

          Sainz is in predicament following his comments last week about not being the longest serving driver at Toro Rosso… would MB drop Bottas or even Hamilton for for Sainz? I don’t think so… the only thing that might happen is that Sainz takes Massa’s seat with the view that should something change in 2018 at MB, then Sainz get’s the call up?

          Just on the race and if Vettel was preempting the penalty… like I said it just felt that way to me. And maybe he thought it was going to happen so why kill the tires and put the one-stop in jeopardy? But you’re right, anticipating those outcomes is a dangerous game to play.

          • Roar Guru

            July 12th 2017 @ 3:10pm
            Bayden Westerweller said | July 12th 2017 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

            Ferrari could yet plump for Raikkonen once more – especially if Vettel recommits, with designs on Verstappen or Ricciardo from 2019.

            Alonso’s options appear limited to remaining at McLaren or returning to Renault, short of that your belief may come to pass.

            Sainz would be ideal for Renault – though Kubica’s ostensible return would torpedo that, thus Williams is his best option if he’s able to extract himself from Red Bull’s clutches. He may be content to serve a final season at STR if a berth at the senior outfit is certain in ’19.

            Vettel has been consistent this season, yet there have been points left on the table at multiple events which could easily have been his, and could prove costly if either Mercedes launches an assault in the back half of the campaign. Not that he wasn’t ruthless at Azerbaijan, though he needs to take more risks to convert solid second places into victories, especially whilst Hamilton is languishing.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 12th 2017 @ 7:10pm
              Chancho said | July 12th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

              I like that point on Vettel… I can think of a couple of occasions where he hasn’t fully capitalised on Hamilton’s miss-fortune.

              That’s what happens when you win 4 drivers’ titles on the trot at such a young age… you lose your edge 😉

    • Roar Guru

      July 11th 2017 @ 7:39pm
      Jawad Yaqub said | July 11th 2017 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

      It is a bit sad to have to come out and say now that Bottas has warranted a contract for 2018 with Mercedes AMG, when pre-season you’d have thought that he’d be a guarantee. In agreeance with Chancho, I’d like to add too that Bottas’ technical influence is also a key asset for him – as he is in that same boat as Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, as far as having that technical competence. Even something small as that could have an impact of the title swings!

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2017 @ 8:37pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | July 11th 2017 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

        Bottas long ago warranted an extension, though Mercedes’ motives are all that matters. The Finn has done a fine job of displaying that Hamilton is expendable if push came to shove, and at worst is an extremely attractive proposition to any other suitor – Ferrari itself would do well to court him should Brackley looks elsewhere.

        He’s seamlessly transitioned into Rosberg’s role, always there to gather the maximum quota when the opportunity presents, remaining calm in a crisis unlike his team-mate, and avoided the ‘psychological warfare’ which his predecessor and Hamilton were perennially engaged in, each huge assets to an outfit desiring harmony whilst producing results.

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