Mercedes have finally confirmed that Valtteri Bottas will remain in its quiver as a Silver Arrow for 2018. The news doesn’t come as a great shock, and we’ll look into the two major factors that probably aided the decision, as well as the mixed reception the Finn received when he was announced as a Mercedes driver for this season.
From Williams to Mercedes
When it was announced that Bottas would be taking Nico Rosberg’s seat, which was still warm given how late his retirement announcement was, there was a real mixed reception from the press and fans alike. A popular view was that this was a move made from nepotism, because Toto Wolff managed the driver. This was a harsh insult to Bottas, who had been impressive for Williams for years, bagging the vast majority of their podiums and points in the season’s in which the team experienced a brief spike in performance.
"Williams made me beg for Bottas"
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) February 16, 2017
The expectations heading into the season were summed up best by the man himself. Bottas was aware from the start that the pressure to perform was on him, and his one-year contract served as a safety net for the team should his pace be below par.
“Of course the team wants to see how I go and that’s fine by me. That’s the way it goes – I’ve always had to earn my place but it seems that I know how to drive.
I’m really happy to have Lewis as my team-mate. It’s a great chance for me to show my abilities. I’ve always wanted as quick a team-mate as possible, and I really have one.”
– Valtteri Bottas talking in pre-season
The Finn would go on to make some early statements in the car, particularly with the victory in Russia, which brings us onto the next point:
— Manu (@Ek3l) July 10, 2017
Whilst Bottas hasn’t quite matched the outright pace of Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel this season, it has been a solid debut year in a top team and he remains in contention for the title, with only 40 points between him and the tight scrap between the protagonists. Stranger things have happened, and it would only take one corner and one collision between Hamilton and Vettel to thrust the Finn right back into the mix.
Bottas’ consistency has lifted the team above Ferrari in the Constructors scrap, and he has justified his position more convincingly than his compatriot Raikkonen at Ferrari, who is prone to the odd weekend off the pace. Bottas has actually been on the podium on more occasions than Hamilton this season, but the Brit retains the lead in the standings thanks to a much greater haul of victories.
Bottas has acclimatised to Mercedes very well, and will only get better next season.
This is a bigger variable than some may expect. A great deal of regular observers of Hamilton cite a major psychological factor in the British driver bringing his A-game to a race weekend. If Hamilton is in a positive place, his performances are often second to none.
— F1GrandPrix.it (@f1grandprixit) September 2, 2017
Valtteri Bottas has stated that there will come a time when he plays along with Mercedes and allows Hamilton to pursue the title, but only when he is out of contention. Both drivers seem happy working together within the team, and this atmosphere is the polar opposite to what was happening in 2016.
Whilst Mercedes won the Drivers title and Constructors last season, the stress levels must have been through the roof. The Rosberg/Hamilton rivalry quickly got ugly, and such was the toxicity that the team struggled to contain the situation. Both drivers were clearly unhappy, and had Rosberg stayed in the team, you wouldn’t have put it past Hamilton to hang up his racing gloves if he’d had to endure another season of that. Both drivers had moments of pettiness, and various conspiracies didn’t allow Mercedes to enjoy much of the winning they were doing.
— F1totheMaX #GoMaX (@F1totheMaX) August 20, 2017
With Bottas, they have a team player who seems unfazed and fair about the task at hand. The respect between the drivers was highlighted in Hungary, when Hamilton, despite leading Bottas in the standings, allowed the Finn to reclaim his position on-track after the Brit was unable to overtake the Ferraris ahead.
With harmony in the Silver Arrow garages, everyone in the team can just concentrate on the job at hand and more importantly, enjoy the wins when they come without fear of teammates clashing in the press pens after the race. Bottas, like any driver on the grid, is there to win races, but he seems to be approaching it from a very fair place, and his teammate seems to possess the same mindset too.