Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

2018 team mates battles: Hamilton vs Bottas at Mercedes

2018 F1 season review

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Valtteri Bottas began his first season at Mercedes in good shape but fared less well against his team mate as the season went on. Year two was a similar story, but the effect was more pronounced.

This was partly because misfortune kept Bottas from scoring as highly as he should have in the opening races. Notably in China, where a Virtual Safety Car period robbed him of a likely win, and Azerbaijan, where a debris-induced puncture handed victory to Lewis Hamilton.

Had it not been for this, and further misfortunes in France and Austria, Bottas might have been in a more competitive position in the second half of the season, and therefore avoided having to hand Hamilton victory in Russia. But it wasn’t just poor luck which left him in this position – Hamilton raised his game after the championship returned to Europe.

There were occasions when the team deployed Bottas strategically to help Hamilton, as at Monza. However this tended to occur in situations where Hamilton was decisively the quicker of the two.

That was increasingly a foregone conclusion as the year wore on. Bottas put up a respectable showing in qualifying until mid-season, but Hamilton held sway thereafter. That fundamentally superior performance was what allowed him to lock down the championship. Even Mercedes’ post-Japan slump failed to put Hamilton off his stride.

It was a relief to see Hamilton did not patronise his team mate by attempting to hand a win back for Sochi. But it was never really an option – Bottas finished the last four races in fifth position. His last two races were particularly unsatisfying encounters as he finished well behind his victorious team mate.

With Esteban Ocon on the market for 2020, Bottas will head into another season at Mercedes needing to prove himself anew alongside the best in the business if he is to keep his F1 seat.

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Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas: 2018 Mercedes team mates performance comparison

Season scores

Who was ahead?

The table below shows at which races Hamilton qualified or finished in front of Bottas:

Lewis HamiltonQ

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 F1 season review

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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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23 comments on “2018 team mates battles: Hamilton vs Bottas at Mercedes”

  1. The picture up top is appropriate – Bottas fading into the background.

    1. @phylyp He did finish around 20 seconds behind Hamilton in that race…

    2. @phylyp @neutronstar Yes indeed. In the end, by 20.593 seconds.

  2. There is nothing left for Bottas to prove. He never was on Lewis’s level and never will be.

    It is time to let go of the fantasy and illusion that Bottas can match or beat Lewis over a season without some major external factors. Lewis has eaten drivers far better than Bottas for breakfast.

    More so, only a fortunate safety car incident put Bottas in a winning position in Baku, and he was never going to win in China with the Bulls putting on new tyres aided by… guess what? A safety car.

    Thus, i cant understand why people keep bringing up Baku and China at the same time.

    1. He never was on Lewis’s level and never will be.

      Honestly, the way Hamilton drove this season, who else would be? No one would have challenged him. Your analysis of China is completely incorrect, the safety car changed everything, the race was all but won. The Red Bulls only threw the dice because of the safety car and the timing of it gave Bottas (and Vettel) no chance of pitting themselves.

      1. @geemac – I think the point @kbdavies is making is that one can say Bottas lost either China or Baku, but not both, since he was impacted oppositely by the VSC in both cases.

      2. (@geemac)

        The only reason Bottas was in contention for the Win in China was because Ferrari miscalculated the pitstop delta, allowing Bottas to undercut Vettel. So Vettel was unlucky, much as the way Hamilton was unlucky in Australia, where Merc miscalculated the pitsop delta under the VSC, allowing Vettel to jump Hamilton.

        All 3 drivers had their fair share of “luck”, “bad luck” in those early races. It all balances out, so i’m getting a bit tired of hearing about Bottas’s hardluck stories.

        1. Bottas undercut Vettel in a racing scenario, both lost out on the SC later on when it was deployed and the RBRs behind them pitted, leaving them with a tyre advantage.

          So in that case Bottas was in contention because the undercut worked without any other factor

        2. That isn’t exactly the only reason. Just before Vettel pitted, he locked up twice in 1 lap then also slowed sown to the pit lane speed way sooner than he needed to. Vettel was also heavily responsible for losing out. Bottas made no mistakes. He deserved that win.

          In Baku, Hamilton messed up and pitted early. Bottas had done enough to end up getting 2nd. On the last restart, he was lucky tht he’d got ahead of Vettel due to the safety car. But Bottas handled the pressure and didn’t make a mistake. Vettel did. Bottas was then set to win and thn had a puncture. Both that race and China were deserved wins IMO. Nothing wrong with a small amount of luck.

          1. China, it was a combination of things, the main being Ferrari miscalculating the pitstop delta, and Ferrari giving Vettel a slow pitstop. Before this, Vettel was leading quite comfortably, he was the unlucky one imo.

            Baku-Bottas was struggling with his tyres first stint, very slow, driffted approx 10 secs behind the leaders. So he sort of “lucked” into the more optimum strategy by virtue of being slow. Again, the SC helped him out and put him in contention

            It’s all swings & round abouts. All 3 drivers had periods of luck/bad luck in the early races.

          2. @buffy

            It is a bit much to say Bottas was struggling with his tyres the first stint in Baku. It was clear he was managing them as he managed to make them last for a very long time and was faster than anyone in certain sectors later in that stint. Hamilton slowly did pull away, but then locked up. Bottas later that race was most certainly not slow. You can hardly call his first stint slow on the whole. He overall did better than Hamilton. Hamilton locking up forced him to pit. From then, Hamilton was then fractionally slower or about even with Bottas even after he pitted. Bottas maintained a gap big enough that when he pitted, he would have come out ahead of Hamilton even without the safety car. And also without the safety car, Bottas would have been in a better situation as he will have been on the best tyres available. You could call his strategy a very good one, but Hamilton asked to box after he made his mistake. Bottas did not luck into that strategy. Hamilton could have done the same if he managed his tyres which he didn’t. Bottas was lucky that he managed to box when he did and got into first (which I doubt he would have got if not for this), but it only effectively gained him 1 place. And Vettel made a big mistake at the restart and Bottas resisted the pressure and kept it clean so I don’t see that as being that much of an undeserved win for Bottas. But I do think it was an extremely unlucky lost win. Even if there wasn’t the safety car and he had a puncture, it still will have been far more unlucky than Hamilton has been in other races. May be why it keeps getting brought back up.

            In China, Vettel was leading by just under 3 seconds before Bottas boxed. Which just indicates to me how terrible his last lap before pitting was. That wasn’t the teams fault. The time Bottas took in the pit lane was 22.097. Vettel was 23.009. Given that Vettel was nearly 3 seconds ahead, there was not much wrong with pitting him. But as I said, he made two mistakes and slowed down much more than he needed to before you must limit your speed. Bottas was also over 7 tenths quicker in the middle sector alone. Given the pit lane time difference was under a second and Vettel was nearly 3 seconds ahead of Bottas when Bottas pitted, I don’t know how you can blame Ferrari more than Vettel. Bottas didn’t really luck into the lead that race. Vettel made mistakes. I thought Anthony Davidson on sky did a good job to point these out on the post race coverage. Not everyone seemed to notice them. Perhaps Ferrari could have risked an earlier stop. But doing what they did with the gap Vettel had at the time Bottas pitted seeded right. That was until Vettel messed up his in lap.

          3. @ BEN ROWE
            I’ve already made it clear that because of Ferrari pitstop miscalculation, i see Vettel as being unlucky in China. Not faultless, but a little unlucky. Nothing you have said changes my opinion on that

            Baku- In the first stint, Bottas was struggling on tyres his tyres. It wasn’t a managed gap. Explained by Andrew Shovlin in this vid: (around 4:10 mark)

          4. I’m not saying he didn’t struggle at all. But you can’t really say he struggled in the first stint when later in a good deal of it, he was actually setting fastest sectors. Using the words, “he struggled initially” would be better. I don’t mean he was trying to be slow to manage them. I mean he managed to look after them and avoided locking up, therefore managed to bring them to life later.

            I don’t understand the thing about China. The difference with their stops was much smaller than the gap between Vettel and Bottas before either pitted. Ferrari wouldn’t have expected Bottas to gain as much time on Vettel, but that was due to Vettel’s mistakes. But yes, the pit stop time was part of it too. But I believe Vettel could have got out ahead without the double lock up resulting in a slow inlap. Guess we will have to agree to disagree.

    2. @kbdavies Bottas was going to have a very good chance at winning in Baku even without the safety car. He would have gotten out ahead of Hamilton and only a few seconds behind Vettel with much newer tyres and plenty of laps to catch up. With that long straight, Vettel would have stood no chance.

      In China Bottas had Vettel covered but got screwed over by the timing of the safety car as he had already passed the pit entry and had no chance of pitting for new tyres like the Red Bulls did.

  3. Bottas should go to RBR. At least they endorse wingmans

    1. Getting tired of all this “wingman” talk. Kimi has been doing it for years at Ferrari. It’s nothing unusual.
      Bottas was given chance to prove himself but fell too far back from Hamilton, prompting Mercs to fully back Hamilton at the crunch end of the championship

      1. what are you saying? Bottas/Kimi at RBR?

  4. The lost points early into the season had a significant impact on the final gap in the WDC standings, but even without those, LH was by far the better out of the two. VB just had a bit too many races where he slumped into finishing as the worst of the top-6 runners and or all the drivers from the top three teams that finished the race(s) in question.

    1. @jerejj
      Agreed. I’m a Bottas fan but he simply wasn’t good enough against Hamilton’s might.

      If we were being kind, and I try, we’d say that Bottas obviously let his head drop in the later races and his de-motivation following the team backing Lewis’ title bid at his expense was visible.

      But… Really, we even need to make that a criticism. You know somebody who’s head didn’t drop; Hamilton’s. Bottas needs to up his game and has been given every opportunity to be number one.

      He knew what he was getting in to. And he has one more chance, under even greater pressure.

  5. I think Bottas should take some satisfaction from his great performances in the Williams and his time at Mercedes. It was really a case of “right place, right time” and luck that he got the nod from Toto, otherwise he’d be still scratching round the midfield or already in Formula E or somewhere. Nice guy, solid driver, good teamplayer. He could join a team with Hartley?

  6. Bottas started the season OK, but Hamilton’s performance this year was probably his best ever so any drivers performance against him was going to look down a bit.

    I’m wondering how many times though his strategy enforced by Mercedes, where he was pitted early (or late) solely to hold up the Ferrari’s (and in doing so bring the Red Bulls closer to them) impacted the overall gap that he ended up having to Hamilton.

    I suspect he’s a better driver than he was allowed to be at times. 2019 I think will be make or break for him, although “make” might well be that he’s played the “disrupter” against the Ferrari’s and Red Bulls again and allowed Hamilton to sail off to another WDC and scored enough to help Merc will the WCC. Not really sure that Merc want him to do any more than that.

    1. It’s no secret that the team are much more concerned about the WCC than the WDC. They get a tremendous amount of money for one. Nothing for the other except for the advertising which is worth a lot as well. Either way, it’s not like Mercedes would ever try to ruin a drivers race to aid the other , especially in a tight fight for the WCC. Of course they team will aid the FASTER driver when it comes down to who they want up front . Obviously Lewis deserves that favoritism as he is faster than Bottas 80% of the time . Bottas never amazes us. Hamilton often does. Same with Vettel/Kimi. Vettel made some errors, true, but he is also the driver who does more impressive things in the car. Same for Max/DR. Max is more likely to pull the rabbit out of the hat so he gets the favored strategy more often . Ultimately it’s about optimizing the TEAMS points haul, obviously.

  7. Bottas. This guy belongs in Formula E.

    Russel should get the nod over Ocon for 2020 imho.

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