Bottas must be a title contender in 2018 – Wolff

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In the round-up: Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff expect Valtteri Bottas to be a serious championship contender in his second year at the team.

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Jacques Villeneuve’s glass house is missing a window or two:

This bit struck me as particularly ironic:

“‘Even Massa was faster than Lance,’ says the 1997 world champion and the last man to deliver a title to Williams.”

Especially given the fact that ‘even Massa’ was faster than Villeneuve when they were team mates at Sauber in 2005.

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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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57 comments on “Bottas must be a title contender in 2018 – Wolff”

  1. The biggest difference between now & 20 years ago in terms of sponsors/sponsorship revenue is that tobacco advertising is banned.

    The tobacco brands were often more willing than others to throw a lot of cash at even some of the smaller teams because they just wanted there brand out there competing with there rival brands. For whatever reason other business sectors were never as willing to do that so once tobacco sponsorship was banned a big portion of income was taken away from a lot of the teams with nobody else willing to come in & put up anywhere near as much cash.

    I recall talk in the early 2000’s that the tech companies, mobile brands & internet startups were going to come in & replace the tobacco brands in world motorsport but that never really materialized at the scale I think people were expecting.

    It also seemed that the 2008 economic crisis seemed to take away a lot of the smaller brands away as well as the banking related brands that had entered over the prior few years.

    1. The tobacco brands were often more willing than others to throw a lot of cash at even some of the smaller teams because they just wanted there brand out there competing with there rival brands. For whatever reason other business sectors were never as willing to do that

      I think that was their marketing strategy, the cigarette companies always focused mainly on the macho/playboy image. F1, 500cc racing fitted into that very well.

      1. That, and tobacco companies already had less other opportunities for advertising

    2. The biggest difference between now & 20 years ago in terms of sponsors/sponsorship revenue is that tobacco advertising is banned.

      About 15 years ago Formula One races were broadcast on Free To Air TV in New Zealand, which is where I live. Despite most races being broadcast at midnight it seemed to me that a lot of people were watching the races. The Free to Air TV station did their own build up to the race and then switched to the foreign commentators for the race. This was paid for in part by Shell, who also supplied fuel to one of the teams (I think it was Ferrari). I thought the presentation was very good. Then one day the local hosts said they had lost their contract to the local PayTV company, who decided F1 was a premium product, and so they charged more than most fans were prepared to pay. This isn’t the fault of the PayTV company, it is the fault of F1. The could have stipulated their races would be broadcast on a Free to Air station, but they didn’t. F1 knew it had sold the broadcasting rights to a company that guaranteed viewing to a restricted and exclusive audience. This meant local corporations were wasting their money if they wanted their brand name associated with a modern and technically advanced sport. Also, multi-national corporations would find they got little value here from buying space on F1 cars or on the race track. So the corporations went off and found other ways of putting their brand name into the public gaze. Shell has re-branded their local petrol stations to “Z”. F1, seeing the declining popularity and interest in brand names that advertise on F1 cars and around the race track, has followed the same path in most other countries, each time guaranteeing less people and less corporates were interested in F1.
      In the Racer article Horner says F1 needs a “more attractive show”. Pay TV is unattractive and drives fans and corporate advertisers away, so then why wouldn’t F1 on Free To Air TV attract them? TV isn’t the only way to make races available to watch for free: Youtube carries full Indycar race videos, so why can’t F1 do the same? Let the Pay TV companies broadcast the race, and then a few hours later put the race onto Youtube or stream the race themselves?
      Red Bull have put a lot of effort into motor racing. F1 isn’t the only series they sponsor teams in. I’m sure I’ve even seen entire events sponsored by Red Bull. So F1 has to be relevant to their marketing strategies.
      F1 needs to pay attention to what Chris Horner says. If Red Bull do walk away from F1 it won’t be because we weren’t told, he has told F1 many times.

  2. A global engine is a good idea on paper, but if approved, it’ll end as Tiff says. It couldn’t be done back in the day with simpler engines, don’t see why I’ll work now.

    1. A global engine is what you find in road sweepers and garbage trucks. These men in suits will reduce F1 to racing Ford Mondeos

      1. I don’t see what is wrong with racing Ford Mondeos.

    2. The current V6 turbos are the end result of the previous attempt at a global engine for F1, WTCC and WRC – it started as an inline 4, but at least Ferrari refused that for F1.

      The four-pot turbo in WTCC pretty much killed most of the manufacturer interest overnight, with BMW only supplying a retrofit for a WRC engine to their existing 320si, and privateer Sunred having to develop their own engine for the SEATs. Even after some manufacturers returned, WTCC has now died off, but fortunately the 1.6T hasn’t been quite as fatal for WRC so far.

    3. I don’t know what a “global engine” is, but I can’t see Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault, or Honda being happy with an engine made elsewhere in car with their brand name on it, yet the moment you let them make their own “global engine” their engineers will start to think of ways of improving it or getting more power out of it.

  3. Wolff laying down the bare bones. Bottas is talented and showcased his skills in more than just a few races in 2017 but he has to take it up another notch this year. To be fair to him, it was his first season and he only had a loss of form in the second half of the season. However, in 2018 he needs to really show Wolff that he is quick enough to challenge for the championship. I believe he can at least be closer to Hamilton than Rosberg was. I expect Bottas will improve enough to win the title but will probably end up behind Hamilton, Vettel and perhaps Verstappen and Alonso, if McLaren gives a surprise. Bottas should hold on to that seat beyond 2018 as I think he is a solid and capable racing driver. Not embarrassing as Villeneuve says. What was embarrassing was being beaten by ‘even Massa’.

    1. Pretty much a statement of the obvious by Wolff.

      I’m quite certain Bottas knows that already and has been spending all of his time reviewing what he got right and what he got wrong last season.

      It’s going to be an interesting year for Mercedes – if Bottas lives up to his potential, which IMO is actually better than Rosbergs was, I can see all sorts of fireworks in the garages.

      Mind you the same could be said for RBR and Force India – potential for some stonking intra team battles is huge.

      Bring on Melbourne :)

      1. As Wolff said last year, for VB to fight for the WDC means the gloves will have to come off and while that would be great, I’m not expecting it, nor am I expecting VB to be at Mercedes in 2019. He is no Rosberg, imho of course. But I’ll be thrilled for him and for F1 if he proves me wrong.

    2. I doubt Bottas needs to challenge for the title to keep his seat. I’d bet Mercedes are quite happy to have a clear no.2 driver without ever saying such. As long as Bottas is scoring enough for Mercedes to win the constructors’, i.e. backing up Hamilton’s wins with podiums, he’ll keep the seat.

      If he continues to let Ferrari and Red Bull drivers finish ahead of him as he did for most of the second half of the season, he won’t keep it.

      1. I’m still convinced TW would much rather have the ‘problem’ of two drivers duking it out for firsts and seconds on the grid and on the podium. He has already stated that in order for VB to fight for the WDC the gloves will have to come off, as in, none of this lovey dovey after you kind sir, no no kind sir after you…so TW I think always expects at least some level of rivalry if not a big one if the team is doing things as they want.

        If we get our wish and through rules stability the Ferraris and RBRs are closer, I predict VB will get squeezed out. Nico had to be extremely close in performance to LH to do it, create the rivalry I mean, albeit with LH more often with that little bit extra. And that was with nobody else to bother them. Does anyone think VB is just that hair off LH such that now with Ferrari’s and RBR’s actually in the fight he can still shadow LH and force LH to shadow him and keep the likes of SV, MV, and DR at bay? I don’t, but boy oh boy what a feat that would be for VB.

        No I think it will be a similar situation as last season only perhaps even harder for VB to assert himself, and TW will continue to believe that if there’s going to be a rivalry on the team anyway, it might as well be for firsts and seconds and he’ll have to hire a stronger competitor than VB, and one double-edged way to do that is to take a top driver away from one of his competitors if at all possible.

    3. @godoff1

      The one issue I saw with Bottas this year is that with Nico Rosberg retiring like he did, Bottas was basically driving Rosberg’s car which was set up, tweaked, and tuned to his liking. It was a championship car in Rosberg’s hands. Given that the first part of the season that Bottas looked like he was doing okay you can take his ability either one of two ways.

      At the latter part of the season he held his own, he did good given a lot of conditions. Not quite what I would call his best first year outing, but in my opinion he did very well considering the circumstances. He showed that he was a good solid number 2 driver, that he was more than willing to work with the team, and in some cases more importantly work with Hamilton.

      Now that year 2 at Mercedes is upon him, he gets HIS car set up to his liking. How he does this year will be a better determining factor of how he is as a driver given that he is with a team that has had a dominating chassis and power unit for so many years now. This will be the year where he is given the tools to determine his future in F1.

    4. The ‘fight for the title requirement’ -thing was really just the interviewer putting words into Wolff’s mouth, but still, the way Wolff went from driver to create team spirit, peace and similar, to suddenly saying rivalry and even feuding would be good, likely means he’s changed his mind and now wants someone other than Bottas soon, I’m guessing Ricciardo.

  4. Wolf’s hesitation and fumbling for words answering the question of if they have the best driver lineup tells it all. He’d just a few sentences earlier comfortably stated Hamilton to be the best driver of the current day and age and if he doesn’t think in conjunction with that that they have the best lineup then he can’t really be ranking Bottas that highly.

    1. It’s almost like telling the guy from Perth that the door is wide open.

      1. …or the brash kid from France…

  5. Bottas results against Hamilton this year confirms my suspicions about Williams 2014/15 seasons… They had a monster car those years and if they had a driver line-up that wasn’t Bottas and Massa they could have been in the mix fighting with Mercedes for the title itself.

    People would argue with me at the time that Bottas/Massa were getting that car to where it deserved, but I still don’t believe it to this day. Not having a top driving talent cost Williams greatly in those years. I’m not meaning to say of course that Bottas and Massa aren’t great driving talents, they’re just not on par with the likes of Hamilton-Alonso-Vettel-Verstappen.

    1. Don’t think you could call it a monster.

      Sure it was fast in a straight line but in F1 you actually need a car that can go round corners fast and the Williams couldn’t.

      It was their low drag and the Merc PU that made it look at lot better than it was.

      Remember too that in both those years (as it has done for some time now) the car got worse (or stayed the same) as the season progressed while other teams improved theirs.

      Not really the drivers fault. Williams need to improve their car before we start worrying too much about their drivers.

      1. I really disagree, I think they had a damn good package. It got better in 14 and worse in 15 comparatively. Of course the PU helped, it’s part of the car, but they beat FI who had it in those years (along with McLaren in 14 and Lotus in 15) so it couldn’t have been just the PU.

        I remember vividly the emotion from the engineers at the time on the broadcast, they knew they had a great car. It’ll be a missed opportunity to me that these second tier drivers were racing it. Maybe Bottas will show something next year but to me so far he’s just confirmed it for me.

        1. Williams had a downforce deficit, as was very apparent at the wet 2014 Japanese GP. So I’d agree with @dbradock that the Williams was a slippery car that had great speed on the straights.

          That said, I cannot quite explain Stroll’s qualifying performance in 2017 at Monza – for both car and driver.

          I do look forward to the 2018 car itself, with Paddy Lowe’s design input into it across this year.

          1. @phylyp, they also admitted that their 2014, 2015 and 2016 cars – the 2015 and 2016 cars effectively just being evolutions of their 2014 car – all had issues with the overall handling balance, with the centre of pressure tending to be too far forwards and resulting in a tendency to oversteer.

            The rear suspension geometry also had a tendency to cause uneven wear across the rear tyres and resulted in poor low speed traction (which magnified their problems in wet conditions). They looked OK on the surface, but they did admit that the cars were flawed and turned out to have less development potential than Williams first thought they had.

          2. Very insightful, thank you anon

      2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        5th January 2018, 9:31


        I think you are just right. The Williams was a great car on certain tracks and simply terrible on others. That has been the same from 2014 to now. If Both Mercedes and Williams had top drivers, I still think Mercedes will have won by a long way. Their car is suited to be very strong at almost every circuit. It seems Williams makes the most of their setup to suit some tracks very well indeed. But there were tracks like Monaco and Singapore that noticeably were much worse for Williams as that car just wasn’t good at slow tracks with a lot of tight corners. Due to their setup, the team also admitted they had a major disadvantage in the wet due to low down force. I think 2rd in the championship in 2014 was possible. But Massa had an insane amount of bad luck that year and Bottas had some too. It was only Bottas’s 2nd season and I don’t think he did that bad at all.

    2. Not having a top driving talent cost Williams greatly in those years.

      Glad ‘those years’ are behind us ;)

    3. Absolutely agree with you. Bottas is a decent driver and Massa was aswell, but those top 4 drivers you named are the ones who will be able to improve the car during the season, and push it to the limit.
      I am also convinced that if they had two good drivers in 2017, they would be very, very close to Force India. In the beginning of the season Massa was even faster, but because Williams’s driver line-up is so bad, they are not able to develop the car as fast as the other teams. Because the drivers don’t push each other to the limit. Which is why Force India improved much more during the season.
      Also the exact reason why Force India is 4th in the contructors for recent years.. they have had one of the best driver pairings on the grid..

  6. I know we all like a bit of Villeneuve bashing, but since his accident in 2009 Massa has not been rated among the great current F1 drivers. True it’s a little disrespectful the comment, but it’s probably true. Stroll should have been closer to a driver about to retire… surely?

    1. @john-h
      Larry Holmes has beaten Muhammad Ali :)

    2. @john-h I agree, I think there is a Massa before and after that crash. Even his face and eye look different

      I believe however we some some flashes of the old Massa this year, maybe that is down to the type of machinery he was driving, which might suit better is skills.

  7. No fan of the ‘global’ engine concept, F1 has more than enough controls in my opinion. I know one of the issues with F1 is cost and yes that needs to be reigned in. But I feel is dumbing down the cars is not the answer.

  8. Honda must be chuckling at their 3-year head-start in making a global engine ready for GP2.

  9. Jean, stop.

  10. I doubt Nurburgring will return to F1 in the short-term. Furthermore regarding the last paragraph of the Autosport-article: I regard Las Vegas as the least realistic option out of the three US cities mentioned primarily due to the number of Casinos there + the time difference to the European countries is another thing that would make it difficult unless the race started at 12 pm local time. Here’s the primary reason why I doubt a race in LV would/could work due to the Casinos explained in a bit more detailed manner by using a quote from an earlier article on this site which pretty much sums it up regarding this particular topic: ”Las Vegas won’t join, and if it does it’ll be off the calendar within 3 years. The idea of having a road race on the strip of a few years ago will never work because the casinos won’t let the roads close for an F1 race. Too much casino money at stake and too little interest in F1 in that area to justify it. Las Vegas doesn’t need F1 for a draw and doesn’t want a draw that makes getting to the casino hard. Developers and casinos there are more interested in NFL, NHL, and other sports right now so F1 would have to be completely foreign investment and there’s no return in holding an F1 race any more from just the race tickets. It’d be a money loser so in the end it’ll never come together.”

    1. @jerejj, On the strip ? No for the reason you state but there is a lot of cheap empty real estate around ‘Vegas and the Casinos definitely do want to attract more people to stay in their hotel/casinos, that’s why they put on all those big shows with big stars.

  11. Cotd.. plus a million.
    Villenueve is irritating and so far up his own …. He can’t see the sun shine!

  12. You’ll have to cause a disparity in reliability, like you did/happened to Rosberg if you want that outcome Toto.

  13. Really exciting watching that interview of Brundle’s with Brawn. Saying all the right things as I have been pointing by out to people who seem to think F1 is on some downward spiral or is not changing or won’t. Some expect them (Liberty) to have already improved things, when they’ve barely gotten started.

    The new engine format is not written in stone yet while they consider the push back they have gotten from the teams. They understand and appreciate certain teams agendas but will not be swayed by any one teams agenda. Including Ferrari. Noise is important. Closer racing is important and there has never been a proper effort to research and deal with that and now there is. There is exciting new looks for the cars that are planned including better integration of the halo. Changing the racing format is not a priority.

    I think there is only cause for positivity and optimism for the future of F1.

    1. @robbie Absolutely, great interview. Saying all the right things and with conviction. Even Brawn seems excited and that’s something. Brawn is really the right man for the job. Yes, he plays hardball and do huge costly rules upheavals just like Mosley and Ecclestone, but I really believe it’s just for this time and after that it will be civilized.

      Only nitpicks for me is that fans trackside seems prioritized with the noise thing being top of the list, while the 99% who watch on TV who likely don’t care much for how loud the sound are, and are bound to have other wishes concerning screen production, but nothing mentioned about that at all, so the surveys needs to be broader.

  14. With respect to cotd, let’s in fairness analyze 2005 and Sauber with JV and FM a little bit, just as we would analyze why LH lost to NR, or was beaten by Button in 2011, why SV was bested by DR in 2014, why FA only managed four points more than Vandoorne last season, and yet why LH, SV, and FA are the top 3 drivers in F1 regardless.

    Let’s remember that in 2005 a race resulted in 39 total points being distributed amongst the top 8 finishers. There are now 101 points available amongst the top 10. So FM beat Stroll barely this season. FA, some say an even better driver still than LH, beat Vandoorne by 4 points. Gee do you think a driver can be handcuffed by his car?

    In 2005 the Sauber managed 21 points over the season, 11 to FM and 9 to JV. Both drivers managed a 4th, both a 6th, both an 8th, and FM had a 7th place finish. Many love to claim LH lost to NR because of one dnf, and that’s in a WDC capable car. JV had one more dnf than FM in 2005, without the car to answer to that, with far far fewer points available. Does he get any ‘forgiveness’ for that like some of you will always give LH for losing to NR?

    1. In 2005 the Sauber managed 21 points over the season, 11 to FM and 9 to JV. Both drivers managed a 4th, both a 6th, both an 8th, and FM had a 7th place finish. Many love to claim LH lost to NR because of one dnf, and that’s in a WDC capable car. JV had one more dnf than FM in 2005, without the car to answer to that, with far far fewer points available. Does he get any ‘forgiveness’ for that like some of you will always give LH for losing to NR?

      I can’t remember enough about the performances of the two Sauber drivers in 2005 to give a definite reply to that. No real idea which one was better, by how much, when, etc.

      However… if my memory did recall that Villeneuve was obviously better than Massa in 2005, but that he was disproportionately hit by reliability problems that clearly reduced his points-scoring potential resulting in him scoring fewer total points, he would certainly be ‘forgiven’ in my eyes for finishing behind him, yes.

  15. Is this some sort of ‘farewell’ to BOT and ‘welcome’ to RIC if BOT doesn’t deliver ( = prove he can be HAM’ successor) this year?!

  16. Noise, noise, noise and noise, fans who like F1 noise more than mechanical efficiency are going to be vastly disappointed if ever electric batteries become a viable power source for F1 cars.
    TV broadcasts of F1 races past never did justice to the earth shattering din created by the cars, but the only time a fan could get the true impact was by attending a race live. Given that most fans would attend their home F1 GP only, that meant savouring the unfiltered noise once per year; the experience of other18/19 ish races was delivered via the much muted TV broadcast.
    Lack of current F1 engine noise is therefore only an enjoyment problem for the fan at his/her home GP as the other GPs are delivered by TV which has always muted the engine noise.
    Rumbling thunder, throaty roar or eldrich scream, which is your authentic sound of F1?

    1. @F1Codger +1. ”which is your authentic sound of F1?” – I like all the F1 engine sounds more or less equally, so, therefore, I’ve got nothing against the current sound either. I got used to it straightaway four years ago.

      1. @jerejj Well said. That’s my view too, in a nutshell…

    2. “Lack of current F1 engine noise is therefore only an enjoyment problem for the fan at his/her home GP”

      And how good do you think those GP’s will do when attendance drops to the same level as the noise?

  17. Jean Todt. Non.

  18. Well, Toto cannot have it both ways. You either hire a driver like Rosberg who challenges Hamilton, which ofcourse risks on track incidents and bad blood within the team. Or you hire a team player like Bottas who protects your ‘star’ driver! Bottas took points off of Hamilton’s rivals last year that helped Lewis and Mercedes win the championship, he was
    professional and gracious throughout.
    In contrast to Ferrari who had to rely solely on Vettel for their race wins. Ofcourse there is room for improvement for Bottas, you could say that about all the other drivers aswell aside from the champion. If he doesn’t want Bottas, ditch him or stop moaning! I am sure another team would want him in their car.

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