Valtteri Bottas’ Formula 1 Season
World Championship position: 3
Number of World Cup points: 226
Number of wins: 1
Best place to start: Pole position (Portugal, Turkey, Mexico and Brazil)
Best result: 1st place (Turkey)
Report mark: 6.4
The above rating is actually exactly what Valtteri Bottas has been in the service of Mercedes: decent, adequate, but unfortunately not much more than that. In five years he has rarely, if ever, spoken a cross word and has always functioned neatly as second fiddle. Although it has gone from Valtteri 1.0 to 4.0, there turned out to be no world champion in him. He might be a little too nice for that. Bottas is also extremely polite and friendly in his dealings with the press, which is nice, but on the other hand, he takes those qualities on the track and nice guys don’t become world champions very often.
The fact that he has functioned as Lewis Hamilton’s water carrier for all those years and that Toto Wolff actually thought the division of roles was fine, did not do his chances for self-development and own success any good either. That own success has been limited to ten victories for Mercedes in five seasons, although he managed to score significantly more pole positions with twenty pieces.
Nevertheless, Bottas’ time at Mercedes will go down in the history books as that of a decent second driver, call it a modern version of Rubens Barrichello. That is immediately the yardstick against which Bottas’ season should be measured. In that regard, that other title contender’s second driver may serve as a reference: Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez. When the stats of the two men are compared, Bottas comes out on top without a doubt. The 32-year-old Finn has qualified much better, has more podium finishes to his name and also finds himself higher in the World Cup standings. In addition, with slightly more consistent performances than Perez, he has helped Mercedes to the constructors’ championship.
It all pleads for Bottas as the ‘ideal wingman’, although that kite is not entirely valid this year. It must be said that there were some extenuating circumstances for Perez. The Mexican had to deal with a new team, a new engine supplier, not to mention a new chassis that required a completely different driving style. Those excuses do not apply to Bottas. In addition, Perez has been worth gold for Max Verstappen at the moment. Without the defensive work against Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, the latter could have made a ‘free’ pit stop and the world would have been a very different place. It makes Perez important at the decisive moment.
Bottas has not been able to deliver that except for Hungary – and let’s not take that race into account. In Russia, among others, he was posted right in front of Verstappen due to a motor grid penalty, but there was no question of fierce defense. Bottas left the door wide open and didn’t get involved in the driver fight. It graces the number three in the World Cup – or as Verstappen puts it: “Valtteri is a neat driver” – but also shows his weakness. Bottas is not decisive in duels and that has marked his entire Mercedes period. When he drives at the front like in Turkey there is no size, but when it comes to fighting, the story is different. This also perhaps shows again: a little too nice to ever become world champion.
The editorial figures