The last time Valtteri Bottas drove an F1 car was during the winter-testing held in Spain during the early part of 2020. All that’s prevailed since then for the entirety of the grid has been an absolute drought of any action whatsoever. But what an amazing feeling might it have been for Mercedes and Valtteri Bottas to resume testing as the Finn returned behind the wheel of a car over three months since any driver tested a 2020 machine?
Though, in a major departure of sorts from usual testing procedures, the Silver Arrows got the prominent Finn to drive his 2018 machine, in line with the most recent specification of a car permissible to drive without breaching the F1 rules.
If that’s not interesting, then what is? Or maybe the realization that driving the 2018-era W09 may not stoke much enthusiasm apart from the fact that it marks the return of a prominent driver to the grid. For this is the machine that saw Valtteri Bottas endure a winless run in a season that he may have done well enough to put behind him.
But interestingly, there’s no enthusiasm lost to see the fastest and undoubtedly the strongest force in the current annals of the sport enjoy a private two-day testing affair at their home Grand Prix venue. Right?
Of late, all the fans have been up to is counting down the days to mark F1’s return, a facet one just cannot possibly curb the enthusiasm about. And stoking that emotion, Mercedes’ official social media channels also posted an image of the winner of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix driving around in the car with an apt caption that read, “It’s been a long three months… but we’re finally BACK ON TRACK!!”
Anyone who saw Valtteri Bottas rushing back to good form in 2019, which was a massive improvement to 2018, would expect great keenness from the Finn to stake a claim in the title race this season. But can he? While we don’t know that, we do know, the Finn has it in him to take season-openers by a storm. Picture the dazzling win at Melbourne, 2019.
Although one expects, despite several races scrapped owing to the pandemic, Bottas may not have lost an inch of bustling energy to prove a point yet again at Austria, the de-facto curtain raiser to a truncated current season.
That being said, the next few hours will be spent wholly and only testing the cars and getting back the preparations in lines with the first race of the season where insofar, the dominant point has been driver shuffles and the desperate wait to hit the track.
Interestingly, there’s more excitement on the cards as Ferrari, who’ve of late, only played catch-up to Mercedes, instead of appearing as the real big threat to dislodge Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s plans are also expected to hit the track this week.
This is in line with the Maranello-based team gearing up for much-needed practice and testing. Meanwhile, here is the official word from Formula 1.com on Ferrari’s immediate plans for practice and preparation:
“Ferrari will also conduct a test in the coming weeks (date and location TBC), giving Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel the chance to warm up ahead of their return to racing in Austria.”
Only more exciting to anticipate what beckons us at the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix.
After all, this is an event that will, for the first time ever, see two back-to-back races held at the same venue separated only by a week between them.
And what’ll heighten the excitement of seeing the 10 teams and 20 drivers where they finally belong- on the track, not off it- would be the possibility of seeing whether Max Verstappen, the 2019 winner at Spielberg can repeat that win?
Although this time, it could well be a close three-way fight between the Dutchman, the Monegasque and, the dazzling duo from the Silver Arrows.