Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2017

2017 F1 driver rankings #6: Bottas

2017 F1 season review

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In his first year at Mercedes Valtteri Bottas produced a season of two halves which contrasted sharply.

The first half was so good it made a contract extension for 2018 a formality. After the summer break he slumped, prompting speculation Mercedes might look elsewhere for 2019.

Valtteri Bottas

Beat team mate in qualifying6/19
Beat team mate in race8/19
Races finished19/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate491/1167
Qualifying margin+0.28

Given he was driving a car which had been developed for Nico Rosberg, Bottas hit the ground running with his new team. It took just three races for him to put the car on pole position. In the subsequent race a tyre pressure error wrecked his first stint, but next time out at Sochi he won in style, jumping the Ferraris at the start and resisting the attentions of Sebastian Vettel.

His championship hopes took a knock in Spain. Both Mercedes drivers had new power units but Bottas’s failed in practice, forcing him to use an old example which also expired in the race. But despite losing a potential 15 points he remained in the title hunt. This was thanks to a second victory at Austria (following a suspicious perfect but legal getaway from pole position) and a marvellous recovery drive at Silverstone after a gearbox change penalty.

As the summer break neared Bottas was still a title contender. After Hamilton handed him third place back at the Hungaroring the pair went on holiday tied 5-5 over the ten races where both had finished, Hamilton just 19 points ahead. It underlined what a fine job Bottas had done, particularly in getting the most out of the W08 when it was not at its best.

When the championship resumed in Italy that all changed. Bottas started and finished behind his team mate at the next six races in a row and would have done so again in Mexico had Vettel not hit Hamilton at the start. In Malaysia he took the chequered flag over 40 seconds behind Hamilton and at the Circuit of the Americas he lost touch with the lead pack.

How had it gone so badly wrong? It seemed that as the Mercedes grew stronger, Hamilton found new reserves of pace Bottas couldn’t match. That changed once Hamilton had won the title: Bottas took two poles in a row and after a limp showing in Brazil he ended the season on a high with victory in Abu Dhabi.

Bottas felt this marked a turnaround from his mid-season slump. But it’s doubtful his team mate was operating at full strength at this point in the year: As in 2015 Hamilton was clearly no longer giving one hundred percent once the title was in his pocket.

Taking the season as a whole Bottas had much to be proud of. Having been parachuted into the team he ended the year closer to Hamilton on points than Rosberg did two years ago.

But Bottas, who is utterly frank about his shortcomings, heads into the off-season knowing he must turn things around if he is to remain a Mercedes driver for the long term.

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Over to you

After the first half of the season, there was a strong argument for him being first on this list, but now, not so much. He was pretty woeful in the majority of the second half, bar Abu Dhabi and Brazil qualifying. He’s cemented his place as the second driver, despite looking like he could challenge Hamilton in the first half. Overall he did pretty well though, and being just the fourth driver to get over 300 points in a season is impressive.

What’s your verdict on Valtteri Bottas’s 2017 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than him? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

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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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46 comments on “2017 F1 driver rankings #6: Bottas”

  1. My problem with this ranking is, it assumes both Ricciardo and Alonso are in the top five. This does not feel right to me, it’s almost like there should be a top three and then an ex aequo sixth place.

    1. Ricciardo should be in first place, in my opinion. Outstanding performance this year, more than in 2014 and 2016, in my opinion, when he finished third on both championships.

      1. Being outqualified by Max and being beaten in the championship? Number 1? Really? And most of the times when Max retired he was the one of Daniel?

    2. an ex aequo sixth place

      I can understand a 3-way tie for 6th; but struggle to put Bottas at the same level as Alonso & Ricciardo.
      should it then be Ocon – probably not as he was beaten by his team mate
      or Perez then – still not as impressive as Alociardo
      Maybe the Hulk – strong but no Ferdanny
      But surely Sainz – let’s be honest he is is hugely talented; but far too up and down in 2017 to be any higher in the top 10.

  2. This looks likely now:

    1. Hamilton
    2. Vettel
    3. Verstappen
    4. Ricciardo
    5. Alonso

  3. I still think this is kind to Bottas. Although I see a lot of good points being brought up to argue he’s had a good season, he could still be anywhere between 6th and 10th in my view. Of the drivers who’ve been beaten (and quite soundly in his case) by their teammate – on this list and in the championship -, he’s ranked the highest, and even ranked higher than drivers who convincingly beat their own teammate.

    Now on to the top 5.
    I suspect

    And I wouldn’t disagree, though RIC and VER could also be swapped depending on which points you emphasize.

  4. Hamilton

  5. When the championship resumed in Italy that all changed.

    It was Belgium.
    I don’t know what happened to him in the summer break. Either he got worse, or Hamilton got better (or both). Next year he can’t afford these sub-par performances that were all too common in the second half of the season.

  6. If i could give a nickname for his season for Bottas it would be :Mr Invisible

    He would be,almost every weekend,at the top but i cant say that i was impressed once by him on a Sunday.
    He didnt battle with Hamilton all season long & generally he was overtaked a bit easily.
    What annoyed me mostly,was his start at Spain & Baku.He braked so much earlier that he put himself in a very difficult & awkard situation,that resulted in incident…

    1. What annoyed me mostly,was his start at Spain & Baku.

      Then you probably missed his start in Brazil ;)

      1. At least he didnt crash with anyone!! But yeah, Brazil was bad as well

    2. What annoyed me mostly,was his start at Spain & Baku.He braked so much earlier that he put himself in a very difficult & awkard situation,that resulted in incident…

      @miltosgreekfan Exactly this! And not to mention taking out other drivers in the process. And he just got away with it …

      1. @demercer Yeah,thats something Valtteri does from his Williams years & he must change it…

        1. @miltosgreekfan @demercer

          What annoyed me mostly,was his start at Spain & Baku.He braked so much earlier that he put himself in a very difficult & awkard situation

          Whilst not being as costly, the Singapore restart is probably worth a mention. I mean how on earth did he allow Jolyon Palmer to breeze past him into turn one??

          1. @ninjenius Singapore was crazy when wet & Bottas was on inters(not ideal at the early restart) while Palmer was in Wets.

          2. @miltosgreekfan Good point, but Ricciardo was also on inters and easily had Hulkenberg (wets) covered.

        2. @miltosgreekfan
          I’m not sure where you get this from. Bottas has never once in his career been responsible for anyone retiring, nor himself for that matter. The only incident he’s ever been deemed at fault for was Bahrain 2016 I think. So I don’t know what you mean by replying to the comment above that Bottas has taken out other drivers in the process in his Williams days… Even in Spain this year, since he got away without retiring or getting a penalty while the others retired, it just won’t have been his fault any more than theirs.

          Not that he hasn’t been involved in these things often. But he’s virtually never to blame and he rarely looses out in points due to taking the risks he does.

          1. @thegianthogweed Nah,what i meant is that he must chance his habit of being too cautious on Lap 1.I was responding to the “exactly this” by deMercer,meaning that he is too cautious when it comes to lap 1

          2. @miltosgreekfan
            I see. Sorry for misunderstanding what you were replying to. But I think he’s only actually lost out on a position by the end of lap 1 about 3 times this year I think. I sometimes think being cautious helps out. It must be difficult to decide what move to do in the first corner. Bottas may have been thinking about what Vettel ended up doing in Mexico when he was on pole in Brazil. When he got a good start in Bahrain 2016 (better than Rosberg and Hamilton), he wasn’t as cautious, but it resulted in an accident.
            I don’t know many of Bottas’s races with these cautious starts that have actually heavily affected his race result. But anyway, he has been doing them less frequently recently I’d say.

    3. Haha. Truly.

  7. Why does it say 5 in the url?

    1. attention to detail ;)

  8. I honestly can’t see why anyone would object to Bottas being so solidly in the top 10. He had a great season overall. Admittedly he had a slump in the second half but he came back from it well at the end and scored 3 really good wins and 4 properly good poles.

    I struggle to see what more he, or anyone for that matter, could have done after being thrust into the world champion’s seat at the last minute against an in-form Lewis Hamilton.

    1. I struggle to see what more he, or anyone for that matter, could have done after being thrust into the world champion’s seat at the last minute against an in-form Lewis Hamilton.

      Having a 2nd half of the season better than the 1st half.

      1. Well then let’s hold the first half of the season against Hamilton when he was far closer to the level of his less fancied team mate…

    2. @geemac

      The very fact that he had a proper slump whereas a few drivers behind him in the rankings were far more consistent throughout the season makes his criticism reasonable. New to the team or not, he had no reason to perform consistently worse in the second half of the season after doing so well in the first.

  9. It seemed that as the Mercedes grew stronger, Hamilton found new reserves of pace Bottas couldn’t match.

    It amazes me how the leap can so easily be made without any caveats that when one driver struggles with speed as it was with Hamilton in races pre-summer break, it’s always the car, while with another it’s always the driver pace as with Bottas post-summer break, even though it could so obviously be the car there too.

    It’s more than strange when the assumption is easier made that a driver just ‘lost’ speed (where did it go?), and one ‘found’ speed (where was it found?) than it was the car particulars.

    1. It depends on the driver’s name.

      Massa, Vettel, Perez, Rosberg are examples of names that perform well because of the car

      If you are named Hamilton, Alonso, Verstappen most likely it will be down to skill.

      Think well when naming your child

      1. I was thinking of ‘Honey Badger’ as a good name: car or skill?

      2. (@johnmilk)
        Except Alonso, Hamilton and Verstappen proved themselves in either poor machinery, or against excellent teammates.

        Massa – held in relatively high regard but lost his pace and consistency
        Rosberg – actually really showed himself in a good light in comparison to such a fast (and obnoxious) teammate
        Perez – has proven himself overrated considering how well Ocon has fared against him
        Vettel – highly rated by mouthbreathers and casuals, slaughtered the single year he had a competitive teammate. Managed to lose the championship with 3 races to go in an equal car.

    2. @balue Even if it was the car particulars in Bottas’ case, he lost to Hamilton by whopping margins for six consecutive race weekends, in both qualifying and race.

      It is easier to blame it on the car in Hamilton’s case since he had only two blips in his performance in the first half, in Sochi and Monaco, and was either decent or brilliant in the rest. He was never consistently slow like Bottas was in the second half.

      1. @neutronstar But in the first half, Bottas got poles and wins, so how can it be that when he drops back in the second half, it was Hamilton who found pace and not car issues for Bottas? I mean Bottas even said it outright that the car didn’t fit his style after the summer break, and he had to change it which took time. And likewise, for Hamilton, there were no more car struggles in the last half unlike the first, suggesting it might fit his style better, yet here it’s just that he found pace?

        The logic doesn’t seem to work. I think like @johnmilk it mostly come down to the fact that it was really just because he was Bottas. We all heard pundits at SKY UK and old team bosses like Symonds saying Mercedes should drop Bottas into a supporting role from the very first race, and reiterated it throughout the season, and all this putting down no doubt works on people’s perception that Bottas is a born loser no matter what he does.

        1. @balue That’s a fair point.

          It depends on the driver’s attitude as well, other than his name. Bottas is too honest…I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard “I need to do a better job” from him this season, especially in the second half. That basically dismisses any chance of the viewers blaming the car particulars for his poor performance. Also, Toto Wolff was singing Hamilton’s praises non-stop towards the end of the season and that didn’t help either.

          1. A problem that afflicted the previous world champion Nico Rosberg. Because he admitted that it took everything from him and almost wasn’t enough he was labelled a coward.

            On the contrary if they come to the press saying that it was the best lap of their lifes, that they are driving like an animal, and blame it on the donkey that they are driving, at least gives you a spot in the top 4, probably top 3 on rankings like this while scoring only more 3 points than the other car.

            But hey most of what I say is nonsense so…

  10. When Bottas was selected by Mercedes for the 2017 drive I was surprised at the negative remarks on many sites including this one. The general opinion seemed to be that Bottas was an unexciting choice.
    He has definitely silenced many critics, he may have had a few off moments through the season but on the whole he was well in the mix.. At this level, a huge change like this could easily be expected to leave a driver flaundering behind or over driving to compensate. Bottas however was well in the mix from the start.
    It will be exciting to watch him next year, will probably be his one and only shot at the title, he’ll be highly motivated!

  11. i’d surely put him behind ocon and perez. maybe even hulk. he wasn’t even close to his team mate, hit some ppl @ the start (i remember kimi but im not sure), jumpstarted sochi (could be another track but it was a jumpstart still) and didnt have an impressive moment all year.

    1. He was impressive at the start of the season – Bahrain pole, and the Abu Dhabi pole at the end too. Race in Sochi was good, not a jump start (Austria is the debatable one). It was most of the second half that was very poor. First half he was generally pretty much on Hamilton’s pace.

      1. 2 poles in the fastest car isn’t impressive. even kimi got one.
        sochi was a train, and vettel was very close. he didn’t make a major mistake… wow. his biggest contibution was keeping hamilton in good mood, and letting him pass from time to time. big dissapointment considerig what i was hoping for. ocon and perez being behind him is ridiculous. whould have been a meh season for a rookie in my books.

        1. 3 poles, against arguably the best qualifier of all time is decent (not counting Brazil as Hamilton crashed). I agree that he should’ve been ranked a bit lower, personally I had Hulk ahead, but it was hardly a terrible season. And in Russia Ferrari had by far the fastest car, and he was miles ahead of Hamilton, so that was impressive. His second half if the season really brought him down though.

        2. Bottas got 20% of the poles this year. That is a bit more than Kimi’s 5%. I know percentages look silly, but given that Bottas got 4 and Kimi got 1 shows there is a difference between them. Ferrari has easily been capable of poles very often so I think he should have at least 2. Mercedes really haven’t been the fastest car all the season. There were at leased 2 occasions where Ferrari were the quickest and Hamilton was behind Bottas (Monaco and Hungary). If Mercedes had been the quickest, Bottas would likely have 6 poles. I still don’t think he has done that badly in qualifying on the whole.

          I think it is more impressive that he was really good to start with. That sort of indicates he should be able to get back onto that level or better at some point. it is just unlucky that he didn’t manage it in the 2nd half of the season. I think it is very unlikely that he won’t go back to his early season form or better.

  12. Where is Raikkonen in this list?

    1. Ah- I see now he’s eleventh. Fair. I would have put Ricciardo well ahead of Alonso this year.

  13. I think Bottas had a good season. He didn’t crash out and throw points away like others above him on this this list.

    But he didn’t challenge Hamilton as consistently as Roseberg did. While that lowers him in these rankings, it might be better for Mercedes.

    His real problem is he didn’t beat Vettel on far too many occasions. Merc could decide Ricciardo or someone is a better choice in 2019.

  14. Don’t be under fire, Valtteri!

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