2017 F1 team mate battles: Hamilton vs Bottas at Mercedes

2017 F1 season review

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After a strong start to life as a Mercedes driver it got much tougher for Valtteri Bottas in the second half of 2017.

He kept Lewis Hamilton honest over the opening 11 races of the season and was enough of a threat in the championship that even going into the summer break Mercedes weren’t prepared to sacrifice his title hopes.

This was why Hamilton was required to let him through for third place in Hungary, having been waved past his team mate earlier in the race. Out of the ten two-car finishes Mercedes had up to that point, that put Bottas and Hamilton level five-all in terms of which driver had finished ahead.

That all changed once the summer break was over. Hamilton clicked with the capricious W08 and reeled off a hat-trick of wins which put him on course for a fourth world championship title.

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Bottas was off his game. Having averaged five-hundredths of a second off Hamilton in qualifying over the opening 11 races, he was five-tenths off over the next four dry qualifying sessions.

By the end of the year it had seemed Bottas had turned a corner. But it’s hard to tell whether this was truly so, or just a case of Hamilton coasting after he’d won the championship, much as he did in 2015.

Given his short-notice arrival at Mercedes, Bottas delivered a strong first year in silver. But his contract extension was announced before his late-season slump began, and he will need to get back to his early-2017 form next year to prove he deserves a long-term future at a front-running team.

Hamilton vs Bottas: The scores

Hamilton vs Bottas: Season results

Lewis Hamilton Q
Valtteri Bottas Q

2017 F1 season review

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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29 comments on “2017 F1 team mate battles: Hamilton vs Bottas at Mercedes”

  1. Valterri… Perform next season. Toto said he wanted to look at the driver market for 2019. Ocon and Ricciardo can be with Lewis in 2019..

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      1st December 2017, 16:44

      @krichelle if I were Toto, I would choose Ocon to pair with Hamilton in 2019. The future is there.

      1. @omarr-pepper I really love to see that happen. If Ocon kept getting better it would be a dynamite duo on and off track. Both drivers love drama and aren’t afraid to exercise mind game on social media.

      2. verstappen please.

    2. Whoever they chose he musn’t be as good as Rosberg, they couldn’t handle it.

  2. Its true that Bottas’ dip in form after the summer break pretty much sunk his hopes of a championship, but this guy impresses me. He just gets on with it. No fan fare, no fuss, no complaining to the media. A true professional.
    To go to Mercedes, following in the footsteps of the departing world champion Nico Rosberg, was a great opportunity for Valteri Bottas. However, with that opportunity, came enormous pressure and enormous risk to his reputation.
    Everybody at the beginning of the season believed that Hamilton would destroy Bottas, really embarrass him at every race. That did not happen!
    He comes across as a likeable person. The atmosphere at Mercedes was visably different this year as opposed to previous ones, and even the scorn of Jacques Villeneuve could not put him off his stride on the buildup to Abu Dhabi last week. A great pole and race underlining why Toto Wolff had signed him up in the first place.
    Bottas is not the finished article, he makes mistakes, like allowing Vettel to beat him off the line at Brazil. However, he has the ability and toughness to move beyond that and rebound and succeed.
    Hamilton proved again his worth, the second half of the season was his. He made good use of the car and made Ferrari pay for both on track mistakes and unreliability. He was cold, ruthless, and determined to win. He has matured greatlyin recent years, perhaps due to losing to Rosberg in 2016, who knows? A good line up for Mercedes, more race team, less
    Emmerdale Farm.

  3. Winner of the number twos is Bottas, he did to Kimi what Coulthard never managed to do to Barrichello

    1. Nice analogy!

    2. “he did to Kimi what Coulthard never managed to do to Barrichello”

      err 2001 is calling…..

      Coultharrd 2 wins 10 podiums 4 retirements 3 fastest laps 2 poles – 65 points
      Barrichello 0 wins 10 podiums 2 retirements 0 fastest laps 0 poles – 56 points *SPECIAL TIRES

  4. If you ‘forgive’ Bottas for the first few races to get used to the car, he then became very impressive compared to Hamilton until the summer break.
    But there was no stopping Hamilton from Belgium other than having confirmed his 4th WDC. And Bottas seemed to have fallen backwards a bit.

    1. Yeah… it the car is so good it took Bottas 11 races to learn to drive it badly relative to Hamilton. :)

  5. Interesting to see that in almost all driver comparisons the points tally is an outlier stat, most noticeably at McLaren, Williams, and Red Bull, but across the field.
    I had some fun with numbers and calculated the “winner” of each team battle as the average percentage of the 4 metrics used here (example: Pérez qualified ahead of Ocon 13 times out of 20, so that’s 65% for him in the qualifying category):
    HUL 80,46%
    SAI 79.25%
    VET 75.04%
    ALO 71.44%
    MAS 69.25%
    WEH 68.60%
    VER 63.12%
    PER 60.91%
    HAM 59.65%
    GRO 53.11%

    As we can see, with one exception (Verstappen) the drivers who outscored their team mates are also the drivers with the better average score across 4 categories.
    Still, @keithcollantine called the points standing

    the most obvious (but often least useful) benchmark of driver performance

    in this article, and I share that sentiment, so that might be something worth digging into.

    I don’t want to dwell too much on the methodology I used (partly because I’m afraid of exposing myself as a statistics scrub), but in essence, I looked at the difference of each driver’s percentage in each category in relation to the other 3 categories (e.g. percentage of ‘laps ahead’ vs. average percentage of the combination of ‘qualified ahead’, ‘finished ahead’, and ‘share of points’), excluding outliers (values that deviated from the average by more than 20%).
    Curiously enough, the result seems to indicate that the ‘hard facts’ (qualifying battle and points tally) seem to be the least reliable benchmarks for the comparison between two drivers in the same team.

    ‘Qualified ahead’: +8.77% (i.e.: the advantage of the ‘winners’ of their team battles (see above) was on average almost 9 percent greater in qualifying than in general).
    Range: +26.05% (Hülkenberg) [or +26.97% (Massa, outlier)] to -9.98% (Wehrlein) [or -29.48% (Sainz, outlier)]

    ‘Finished ahead’: +2.03%
    Range: +16.62% (Vettel) to -9.27% (Grosjean) [or -23.95% (Hülkenberg, outlier)]

    ‘Share of points’: -11.63%
    Range: +8.62% (Grosjean) [or +41.87% (Wehrlein, outlier)] to -23.29% (Verstappen)

    ‘Laps ahead’: -0.34%
    Range: +9.70% (Verstappen) to -12.75% (Grosjean) [or -25.27% (Wehrlein, outlier)]

    Contraintuitively, the share of points between team mates is indeed the most flawed comparison, as it tends to undervalue the performance of the stronger team mate by over 11% on average (-19% at Ferrari and McLaren, -23% at Red Bull and Williams).
    By contrast, the qualifying results seem to exaggerate the dominant team mates’ advantage by 8.77% on average.
    So, that leaves us with the ‘Finished ahead’ and ‘Laps ahead’ stats, which were only 2.03% and -0.34% off the average.
    It would be interesting to see whether these observations apply to previous seasons as well.

    1. Nice analysis.

      Yet one more metric to show how much Palmer sucked.

    2. Good job, and I think they do, laps in front of your team mate is usually always a big enough sample size, even when reliability is terrible; it’s got to give a realistic picture.

  6. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    1st December 2017, 19:25

    Well, many seem to think Hamilton was on a whole new level after the summer break. If this is true, then Bottas’s mid season drop isn’t as bad as it looks. That is what I think anyway. I don’t think Hamilton’s start was spectaculer, possibly explaining why Bottas was reasonably close. Then Hamilton found a new level. I think Hamilton is trying his hardest now since he’s got the championship, but it seems the car has suited Bottas’s driving style in the last 3 races as he’s basicly matched Hamilton in Mexico and then managed to clearly have a better weekend in the final 2 races. I don’t believe Hamilton wasn’t trying to get the max out of the car though. Bottas had just got his pace back up again and hopefully it will be closer next year. I don’t like the amount of people saying Ricciardo or Ocon will be a better driver to pair against Hamilton. We don’t know, Bottas could improve a huge amount next year and the other 2 could have an off season. We just can’t predict thise things. Wait until much closer to the time.

    In terms of how good a job Bottas has done at getting points, that is an excellent one. He’s got 46% of the teams points. And he’s also managed to get 84% of Hamilton’s points. Rosberg was 9 points further away from Hamilton’s score in 2014 and 1 point lower in 2015. So in Bottas’s first season with Mercedes, he’s managed to be closer to Hamilton in terms of points than Rosberg was in 2014 or 2015. If you concider that after those 2 years, he then managed to beat Hamilton, I don’t see why Bottas won’t be able to manage to be a lot better than he was this year. Also consider that when Rosberg finished further behind Hamilton in 2015 than Bottas did this year, he was in his 6th year with the team. This is now Bottas’s first and Hamilton’s 5th. Taking all this into consideration, Bottas has had an excellent first season with Mercedes.

    1. Not hard to win when your only competition gets crap engines all year.

    2. “Bottas had just got his pace back”..or full engine mode…

  7. Lewis wasnt wasn’t actually “required” to give the place back in Hungary. Toto gave him the choice to keep it – if he wanted to (as he had built up a major lead). However, Lewis declined and opted to keep his word.

    This is from Andrew Benson’s BBC article.

  8. “many seem to think Hamilton was on a whole new level after the summer break”

    Pure Hype – they have to keep themselves in jobs. He will also be on another level next year if he has a dominant car and the following year again. He’ll be on the moon at this rate, but still not yet Senna or Alonso over a whole season in terms of consistancy. They were Troopers.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      1st December 2017, 22:04

      Well maybe not that much. But Mercedes did say the car seemed to suit him really well at that point. And I’ve heard commentators say that not having that much pressure from Bottas has allowed him to not feel under pressure and therefore do even better still. I’m not sure if I agree, but it could be true.

    2. To say Lewis was on another level, is really to say the car was more reliable this year. Fewer shenanigans. That said, Lewis admits to playing the percentages this year, taking fewer unnecessary risks, basically managing the car.

      I would say he was more pragmatic this year, at times driving within himself to make sure the car got home.

  9. I was hoping Valtteri would put Lewis under more pressure than he actually did, nevertheless I think Mercedes would have been happy with the result. They obtained the Constructors Championship and one of their drivers is the WDC.

    1. Douglas Mughogho
      6th December 2017, 5:48

      @drycrust The problem was that Ferrari and Red Bull were too close to Mercedes party this year to allow Mercedes fair intra-team rivalry. I bet we would have seen less Lewis/Nico fights as well if Ferrari and Red Bull had been close to Merc in 2016, 2015, etc.

  10. Finally Lewis found a teammate who would play second fiddle. No wonder why Mercedes will continue with Bottas.

    1. Well given that Ferrari has that same clear distinction between their drivers, it would make sense for Mercedes to adopt the same policy and not ‘share’ the championship points available to their leading driver.

  11. Let’s all hope that Bottas strong last race (and good pace on saturday in Brazil) give him the confidence to start the season on form next year so that we don’t see him slump into a support role too soon. I still think it will take quite something special to beat Hamilton (it took Rosberg a decade to find a way to do so!) if Lewis doesn’t let himself down.

  12. As a Hamilton fan, Bottas never got me nervous as Rosberg used to do. He is noticeably a step down from Nico no matter what the points say. I don’t mind at all. In fact i would love for lewis to be paired with a teammate like kimi. Someone a bit easier than Valterri.

  13. The key to longevity at the top where HAM’s concerned is whether or not he is capable of embracing the side of the sport he basically has shunned as “boring” so far in his F1 career. Reports emerging from Merc suggest HAM is beginning to figure out how to get more out of closer cooperation with his engineers and other technical staff.

    During his early days at McLaren, BUT, upon studying HAM’s telemetry details, told his late dad something along the lines of, ‘If ever Lewis works out how to get the best from himself and the engineers, the rest of us might as well go home.’ The version he offered for public consumption was: “Lewis is one of the fastest drivers the sport has ever seen.” HAM’s natural talent escapes superlatives, but I’ve always thought it was a hindrance in the sense that it excused his laziness where the off-track technical application is concerned. I wasn’t quite sure he had the intellectual wherewithal either. Should he conquer a measure of the engineering aptitude realm, HAM might just step up a level.

    I have been positively impressed by BOT’s engineering aptitude, professional application and calmness under pressure. Should HAM not turn up sharp next year and suffer the kind of slump he presented ROS in 2016, BOT could well beat him.

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