Valtteri Bottas is, more often than not, the subject of caustic remarks and varying degrees of criticism. This is when he’s a very gifted driver and someone who’s no slouch in Formula 1, having 9 wins and 59 podiums against his name. He’s a driver who stood third at the end of the 2017 season, his maiden drive with the best team on the grid before going onto collect a very respectable second in 2019 as well as the 2020 seasons.
While the difference between his points upon the end of a championship and that of Lewis Hamilton, the usual table topper, might be staggering, but one can’t deny the fact that Valtteri Bottas has emerged second-best to the best driver on the grid, which is no lame feat.
But that being said, this year, the Valtteri Bottas one is seeing is the one who appeared rather vapid and out of form much like his 2018 drives, where although hampered by poor luck on some occasions, such as his Baku drive, the Finn appeared to be punching much below his weight.
Where it stands right now, it can be said without a modium of doubt that Valtteri Bottas is hurting. Why? Following a DNF at Monaco, although one of the sternest challenges for any driver on the grid, the Mercedes man followed it up with a strangely underwhelming performance at the Baku-bound Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The woes at Baku
It’s not just about the P12 but the circumstances in which he appeared a man depleted with talent and the gusto to compete. Not only did his fellow Finn, Kimi Raikkonen pass him in the slowest corner of the 51-lap street course of Baku, Valtteri Bottas never looked even close to matching the race pace of the winning Red Bull.
On Lap 40, he was nearly half a second slower than his teammate and that of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, which was then the leader of the pack.
But trouble starts not when you suddenly begin to underperform. The problem escalates when armed with the exact same machine, considered the fastest by many, and more specifically the one with which your teammate is excelling, you appear to be sandbagging.
Surely, Lewis Hamilton, perhaps under pressure at the race re-start made a rare error only to finish out of points. But just how often has that been the case with the seven-time world champion?
Thus far, Valtteri has had 2 DNFs compared to none by Lewis Hamilton. Moreover, he’s finished outside of the top ten in three of the six events held so far.
Surely, beginning well at Bahrain with a fighting P3 was fine, which was followed up with a did-not-finish at Imola, but Valtteri was quick to bounce back with another third at Portugal and Barcelona.
But all of that said, for as long as you are piloting the best car on the track, one with considerable straight line and handy corner speed, your podiums cannot and must not, one supposes, manifest in a third-best finish on the grid.
So far, he’s just not been able to get the measure of Max Verstappen. Leave aside the fact that the famous Finn hasn’t won a single race in six events so far, which indicates a strange run of performance.
And how’s that?
What lies ahead for Valtteri Bottas
This is the same driver who began the 2020 F1 season with a mega win at the curtain-raiser at Austria’s Spielberg.
Today, Valtteri Bottas finds his reputation questioned and perhaps even his intent. With George Russell increasingly being tied to a possible seat in the near future, one’s afraid to note that time’s not Bottas’ greatest ally at the moment; but a vehement enemy.
It may so happen that the talented 31-year-old driver will go onto collect yet another win at Russia this year, a track he’s really taken a liking to, but the ideal situation would warrant him to grab the pole and clinch the win in the very next event- i.e., the French Grand Prix.
Can that happen? Will that happen? You and me can only play conjecture; only Valtteri Bottas knows what he can or cannot do. Though, one thing is certain- these are still early days in the season. There’s still time left to pick himself up. And the time for that is now, any further delay won’t do.