Valtteri Bottas is the most underappreciated driver in Formula One.
The Finn is far too often in the shadow of fellow Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton. The five-time world champion shows no signs of slowing down and neither Ferrari nor Red Bull can challenge him. The only man who is applying any pressure on the Briton is his teammate.
More than a wingman
The 29-year-old had an incredible start to the season. His
victory in Australia and subsequent win in Baku proved that he was not merely a
supporting act. Last year Toto Wolff, the team principal, branded Bottas as Hamilton’s
“wingman.” The comment stung and fuelled his determination to come back
stronger after the winter.
Bottas’ contract with Mercedes gives them the option to sign him for the 2020 season. The Finnish driver ‘s talent and reliability should make this an easy decision for the team.
Hamilton’s status is undeniable but Bottas’ ability to hold his own
at Mercedes is a skill which is easily overlooked. Having spent last
year in his teammate’s shadow, his reluctance to accept the No. 2 role
speaks volumes for his mental strength. Bottas has outperformed Hamilton
in pole positions this year and with a little luck would have been
closer in the points table.
The performance of the Mercedes drivers at Silverstone illustrated
this. Bottas lost and reclaimed first place in the opening laps as they
battled with impeccable precision. But fortune was not on the Finn’s
side as a badly timed safety car cost him any chance of victory. The
focus at Silverstone may have been on Hamilton but Bottas’ second place
should not be taken lightly. He has proved that he is unafraid to
challenge his colleague on the track and for the Championship. Bottas’
ability to take on the five-time world champion in such a controlled
manner is praiseworthy. Not only does he provide the thrilling duelling
that Formula One fans long to see, but he does it clean without the
threat of collisions.
Bottas is the only other realistic championship contender
and he refuses to back down. After Silverstone he calmly stated that “it’s not
over yet”. If Mercedes were foolish enough not to sign one of the most talented
men on the grid, he would be in great demand elsewhere. Hamilton would be very concerned
if his teammate was behind the wheel of a Ferrari or Red Bull. His skill and
dependability would make him a valuable option for any team.
The Finn’s resilience is unwavering. As he continues to push Hamilton hard, one thing is certain: Bottas cannot be underestimated.
By Grace Evans