Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2018

2018 F1 driver rankings #11: Bottas

2018 F1 season review

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Heading into 2018 the talk around Valtteri Bottas was whether he could justify a contract extension at Mercedes. When he binned his car during qualifying for the first race, it looked like things were going to go very wrong very quickly.

That proved not to be the case: Bottas hit back in fine style. But with the memory of his weak end to 2018 fresh in the mind it’s easy to forget how strong he was in the opening races. Bottas often got more out of the W09 before Mercedes had their new car fully sorted.

Granted, he out-qualified Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain partly due to his new team mate running harder tyres in Q2 because he had a gearbox change penalty. But he pressed Sebastian Vettel hard for the win.

Bottas pulled off a masterstroke in China, catching Vettel off-guard to jump ahead of the Ferrari through the pits. He would have been rewarded with a win had he not been unlucky with the timing of a Safety Car later in the race. He missed the chance to pit, Daniel Ricciardo took fresh rubber and won. This was probably a crueller loss than his late puncture in Baku, where another Safety Car had helped him take the lead, but to miss out on both was undoubtedly cruel.

Valtteri Bottas

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/21
Beat team mate in race 3/20
Races finished 20/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 336/1202
Qualifying margin +0.17
Points 247

He beat Hamilton again in Canada and lost another chance of victory in Germany, where again the timing of a Safety Car period went against him. By this point the season Mercedes were getting antsy about the championship arithmetic, so Bottas was told not to fight Hamilton after the restart. Then in Russia he had to surrender a win which would have been his to give Hamilton what turned out to be a superfluous extra seven points.

As he fell out of contention with the championship leaders at mid-season, Bottas had a few scruffy races. A power unit failure meant he had to start at the back at Spa, but he made life difficult for himself by hitting Sergey Sirotkin. In Hungary he tangled with Vettel and Ricciardo.

There’s no denying Bottas was much weaker in the second half of 2018. Sometimes, as at Monza, his race was compromised by the need to play a supporting role to Hamilton. On other weekends he simply couldn’t live with his team mate’s pace or tyre preservation: He was last of the front-runners home three times in the final four rounds, including two races Hamilton won.

Can Bottas compete at the level of the championship contenders? The opening rounds of the season clearly demonstrated he is quick enough. But it remains to be seen where he can sustain that over a up against of the best the sport has ever seen.

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Over to you

Was immensely unlucky during the first half of the season, often being the only driver to take the fight to Vettel, the cruellest moment being the puncture in Baku that handed victory to his team mate. In the end had to play the role of wingman, which he did competently, although his end of season pace showed that gruelling season had taken it’s toll on Valtteri mentally. An end of season reset is exactly that he desperately needs to hopefully return to winning ways in 2019.

What’s your verdict on Valtteri Bottas’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

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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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61 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #11: Bottas”

  1. Stephen Higgins
    13th December 2018, 11:23


    1. I offer a toast to Nico Rosberg, who battled mighty with Hamilton, and was under-appreciated by F1 fans.

      1. Agreed – Rosberg beat Hamilton around 45% of the time in qualifying and on a Sunday. Bottas has got nowhere near this stat. Very disappointing. Send him home and give Nico another go ! Or at least Ocon. Bottas is a complete waste of a prime seat.

        1. “Give Nico another go” – He retired of his own free will

        2. Please stop the over hype about Rosberg.

          You can’t compare Rosberg in a dominant car, only needing to a battle Hamiton- versus Bottas battling Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi,Max & Dan Ricciardo, in a non-dominant car. Rosberg & Bottas drove under two very different set of cirumstances. In fact, if you subtract races affected by reliability in 2016, Bottas stacks up against Hamiton almost on a par in the way Rosberg did. Their stats are very similar.

        3. Depailler….Rosberg couldn’t deal with the mental strain that will occur. If he has another go, at trying to deal with Lewis again.

      2. Very true. A lot of us under estimated Nico. He did a great job and was fast! in any other car and different team mate, he would of had the upper hand

  2. Could be a great 2nd driver af Mercedes but he shouldn’t fall apart when he’s called wingman.

    I understand Mercedes and Lewis they like it like this

  3. Ouch is right.

    I don’t want to look gloating, but this is spot on. Valtter has no place in the top 10 this year. As a Ferrari fan and as mush as I’m tempted to use the “but they used team orders” card, I think Hamilton would have still beaten him as bad as he did had it not been for the Mercedes management interaction.

    Maybe it’s a phychological thing, maybe it’s something else, but to be honest he really needs to do something spectacular to keep his seat in 2020 (not sure if it’s not already too late for him).

    1. Mercedes is already looking for new drivers but he still has to do something spectacular if he wants to stay in F1.

  4. This is not just a driver ranking if Bottas is rated ahead of Hulkenberg (F1.5 champion 2018).

    1. It should be pretty clear Keith has never managed to separate the cars from the drivers.

    2. F1.5 is not a real thing.

      1. wash your mouth!

        1. I’m starting to appreciate your humor ,Sir.

  5. Too high up. Should be below the two Renault drivers

    1. Agreed.

  6. Every passing article is making Gasly’s eventual showing more and more absurd. His result in Bahrain was fantastic, but only 4 more points finishes through the rest of the season, and too often beaten by the journeyman Hartley on both Saturday’s and Sunday’s in the 2nd half of the season.

    1. I agree that Gasly really needs to show up soon, and for now I cannot see how his article will make me feel his position isn’t waay to positive.

      On Bottas, well, his end of season was really weak, so 11th isn’t outrageous, even if it is ‘ouch’. I hope he does well on that rally this weekend and goes on to build some resilience for the next season.

      1. @bosyber The rally event (Arctic Lapland Rally) in which he’s going to participate takes place in late-January (24-26th), though, so almost a month and a half still to go.

        1. Oh is it? Since there’s no way I will be able to see any of it, I sort of skipped the article I guess @jerejj – guess he needs to hang on there for a bit then! Is his wife swimming at the world championships (she was a swimmer, wasn’t she?) this week.

          1. @bosyber ‘Was’ indeed. I just found out that she had quit swimming altogether (She does ‘show jumping’ aka ‘stadium jumping’ and or ‘open jumping’ now) as I was trying to find out whether she participates in the World Championships this week or not to answer your question since I’m not too aware of these things as I don’t really follow the sport.

          2. I only knew about those championships bc. my twitter said a Dutch swimmer won, and another got silver (I think) @jerejj – thanks for your trouble, well I guess at least she’s an athlete still :)

    2. +1

      I still don’t see how he did better than Hulk or Sainz. Be it Bahrain or Hungary, he qualified high up on the grid. No magic involved there. If driver rankings take into control of a driver’s personality (attitude, temperament, etc) and getting along with the team, he would definitely be in the 10.

  7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th December 2018, 12:49

    Bottas’ position is largely dependent on the perspective of Hamilton’s performance. If you think Hamilton was simply too good this year, then Bottas could be higher up the ranks. If you believe Hamilton simply had a decent season, then this rank is justified especially given his performance at the end of the season.

    I think Hamilton had a stellar season so I think Bottas’ could be higher – perhaps 8th.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      13th December 2018, 13:00

      i agree that Hamilton has somewhat made Bottas’s season look worse. Plus Red Bull and Ferrari have looked matched or a little better during the latest races. Bottas being slower than Hamilton but still managing to qualify reasonably has resulted in him holding up the faster cars in the race. Which has allowed Hamilton to make the Mercedes look better than it is. It isn’t at all dominent any more. I think Hamilton is at his highet ever level. In the 2nd half of the season anyway. Bottas has’t made any race ending results, and has often been decent through most of all the races. He just had often made little erors near the end which then end up costing him positions. But I think he’t been rathe runder rated. I would say somewhere between 6th and 8th actually. Hamilton is making him look so much worse IMO. Given that in the first 4 races, he was over all a match for Hamilton, that should really show that he was extremelly good at one stage. Hamilton has got better since then. And the Mercedes seems to have been going backwards slightly.

    2. I opinion that Hamilton had a stellar season in 2018 (except for 2 races early in the season), but still Bottas in 11th (in front of Hulkenberg) is too high.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        13th December 2018, 16:03

        @coldfly Well, I agree that Hulkenberg should have been ranked higher than Bottas and the ranking of 12 is way off (possibly by 5-6 spots).
        If you think that Hamilton had a stellar season, than Bottas cannot have been that bad. Vettel didn’t have a stellar season and Raikonnen was still behind in most cases and beat him in a few cases. Whatever rank Raikonnen gets, it would be hard not to give a similar rank to Bottas give or take 1-2 spots.

  8. Botta’s season overall is just like this comment, bland.

    1. @johnmilk – and eliciting a bit of laughter :-)

      (funny comment, btw)

  9. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    13th December 2018, 13:12

    I still believe Bottas can be much better than he has been this year. By far his biggest weakness is underperforming when he’s suffered bad luck. Once he’s lost one position, he does seem to get distracted by that then he gets passed by several others often. It is good that he follows team orders, but he does seem to make it a bit too obvious that he follows them. He doesn always exactly use the cleanest line when lettig Hamilton through. And soemtimes after he does this, he lets it get to him and he sadly looks like he is no longer trying as hard. I feel that if he doesn’t have bad luck near the start of the season like he did this year, he could continue that great performance throughut the season. I am hopeful for him being strong next season. We will see. He actually looked aggressive near the start, and that helped him. He has since lost that and seems like he’s a little too careful at times. But being a teams number 2, he has done a really good job at that. Some don’t realise how much he’s helped Hamilton in the last few races. The term “bottas train” that gets used has happened in recent races. But he’s helped stop the quicker drivers from catching hamilton. And they did look quicker once they got past Bottas. His season hasn’t been as bad as it looks on the whole.

    1. Fair point Adam.
      Maybe there should be 2 rankings. One for the number 1 drivers and the other for the wingmen.

      And why not have a sponsored ranking for best Canadian driver;)

    2. “Some don’t realise how much he’s helped Hamilton in the last few races.”

      The problem is that people misconstrue Bottas’s natural slow pace as a ploy to deliberately block. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, Bottas just struggles for race pace, there is no intention to be blockade. His race paces is just naturally inconsistent at times. And overall, he has helped Hamilton perhaps 3x times?

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        13th December 2018, 21:36

        i know he was struggling in recent races. there have been 2 or 3 times where him struggling has helped Hamilton as well as several others where he has done what the team wanted and held some up deliberately but without effecting his own race too much.

        I think Bottas sometimes struggles with the way the current tyres work. in his williams days, he seemed far better at making them last. He’s often about as quick as Hamilton for a good deal of the races recently, then all of a sudden it goes wrong and i guess it indicated he hasn’t managed the tyres that well. If the car suits him all year like it did at the start of the year, he could be much better than some think. Bottas seems to be one of those drivers that is a bit sensitive to the car. It seemed that when he got on with the car better, he had the confidence to do more with it. Some of his overtakes earlier on in the season looked very good. I’ve hardly seen any of them done in the same way recently. Bottas is capable as he shows it at the start of the season, but he needs to stop loosing confidence and performance when he’s suffered bad luck.

  10. I think people underestimate what a massive challenge it must have been for him going up against Hamilton at the peak of his powers. I don’t think Perez or Gasly would have fared any better than Bottas, which is why I would still rate Bottas hire than both of them.. maybe at #10 in the rankings, just behind Kimi at #9 and Hulk at #8.

  11. I think 11th is a bit harsh on Bottas. I know he had one of the best cars but he performed well early in the season and did a reasonable job of supporting Hamilton. Being asked to play support to Hamilton seemed to effect him negatively and he lost confidence and focus. However Hamilton by comparison had an exceptional season.

    I was thinking he might be around 7th to 9th. I have yet to decide on my final positions.

  12. I must have been watching a very different championship this season if Gasly and Perez were better than Bottas. Despite the hiccups, he was easily top 10 worthy over the course of the season.

    Perez out qualified Ocon less often that Bottas out qualified Hamilton (who is the pole position record holder and always manages to pull a great lap out of the bag when it counts) and his average qualifying deficit to Hamilton was smaller than Hartley’s was to Gasly. As mentioned in the article, a number of times his race strategies were compromised to aid Hamilton (rightly when viewed in context, but still) and the seven points he handed to Hamilton in Russia cost him 3rd in the WDC. Not including him in the top 10 is just plain wrong.

    1. @geemac, I would say that what really cost him 3rd in the WDC was the fact that, over the first half of the season, he was only 5th in the WDC – he scored points at a similar rate to most of his rivals in the latter half of the season, but was always trying to make up for the deficit that had built up in the first half of the season.

      1. The first half of the season where he lost wins due to poor strategy (Bahrain), retirements (Baku) and poor VSC timing (China)?

  13. Had it not been for the lost points due to things out of his control early into the season then, of course, the final points difference wouldn’t have been as significant, but still, overall a bit too many anonymous races by him where he suddenly slumped into finishing as the worst of the top runners.

  14. Had the best car and finished 5th in championship. Pretty much enough said.

    Had some strong moments but equally as many weak moments.

    1. He would’ve been 3rd if not for team orders in Russia. And don’t be silly by calling Mercedes’ car the “best”, pretty much everyone agrees they were equal with Ferrari (even Ferrari’s boss, that should be telling).

      1. 1-2 finishes……Mercedes 4 Ferrari 0

        1-2 qualifying…Mercedes 7 Ferrari 3

        Ferrari had a good car but when you analyse the plethora of data available you can come no other conclusion that the mercedes was the better package overall

        1. A lot of Vettel’s errors are mainly responsible for Ferrari’s poorer stats, not their car. He threw too many points and positions away with his mistakes. Mark Hughes explains this here:

          In F1, isolated stats rarely tell the true story.

          On here, Keith put together some good stats. He showed the cars were equal. That’s the view of almost everyone in F1. Personally, i would say Vettel’s better reliability gave him the marginal best car. His car was almost bulletproof.

          Some in F1, however, do think Ferrari had the best car.

          1. What about rain affected qualifying and races? Did the Ferrari fall off the pace in wet conditions? That’s the impression I got, but do the stats support this?

          2. @CC

            The Ferrari drivers (espec Vettel), not their car, underperformed in wet qualifying

          3. The only race in which a vettel error maybe cost Ferrari a 1-2 finish is USA. Mercedes lost potential 1-2’s in Austria, Azerbaijan and France.

            Keith collintines analysis was flawed when comparing the cars as he looked only at the fastest lap each car did each weekend. Simply put if a car locks out the front row in a 3rd of the races and more than twice as much as any other car it’s the fastest car out their.

            Add in the fact vettel qualifying delta was significantly better over Raikkonen than Hamilton’s to Bottas and you could say that Sebastian was punching above the cars weight in qualifying and prevented more Mercedes front row lockouts.

            The Merc was the best car over the course of the 21 races without any doubt.

          4. @pantherjag,

            I don’t agree. And i think you are looking at things too simplistically. Let’s take Baku. Ferrari clearly the fastest car that weekend. Merc was only in a position to get a 1-2 due to the SC, & Vettel badly locking up after the SC restart. Circumstances, rather than the instrinsic speed of the W09 put them in a position to get a 1-2. It’s important to differentiate. There were other races where Vettel’s mistakes cost a potential 1-2. Italy for instance.Vettel’s foolish move on Hamilton at the start, caused Vettel to crash and spin. But Ferrari started that race 1-2, and with a better start & drive from Vettel, Ferrari could have kept that 1-2.

            I would advise you to check out AMUs. For them, Ferrari was quicker in more races than Merc.

          5. @pantherjag

            Jus too further add, Germany is the best example of why having a 1-2 doesn’t necessarily mean having the fastest car in a particular race. Merc got the 1-2 because Vettel crashed out, and not because the W09 was quicker than the SF71H..

            I don’t think your 1-2 argument stands up to tough scrutiny.

    2. Ferrari’s car was equal to the Mercedes car

  15. As much as I would prefer it to be different, since Bottas uses one of the best cars on the grid it isn’t just understandable that given the points at the end of the season, he is given such a low rating, but more or less expected. On a more positive note, only two drivers, Hamilton and Vettel, completed more laps this season than Bottas did, and he scored points at all races bar two, which is better than all the other drivers, except for Hamilton and Vettel, did. If Bottas did this with a far worse car then one would think he was an exceptional driver.
    Bottas scored an average of 11.8 points per race compared to an average of 19.4 for Hamilton, which suggests an average place between 4th and 5th for Bottas compared to 1st and 2nd for Hamilton. Really, considering the car, Bottas should have an average somewhere between second and third in each race, so an average between 15 and 18 points per race, or a final points for the season between 315 and 378.
    I don’t think this low rating is all his own fault, I think some of the blame has to lie within Mercedes, but just as Hamilton gets the credit for his WDC result, so Bottas is blamed for his low points yield.

  16. For all the people slating Bottas, please remember that better than him have been found wanting against Lewis.

    – Alonso ran back to Renault
    – Rosberg retired rather than defend his title

    But somehow I get the impression that people thought Bottas would somehow be an equal match for Lewis, which surely has to be the joke of the year.

    1. Rosberg retired rather than defend his title

      true.. but that was after he beat Lewis ;)

      1. With a six race head start…

        Yet still had fewer wins and poles…

  17. A little lower than I might have placed him, but I wouldn’t have rated him much higher. He really did unravel at the second half of the season, and I think his form from there would see him losing badly to most of the grid if put in equal machinery.

    For a number of normally strong drivers (Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Grosjean) this was certainly a season of performance dualities.

  18. Azerbaijan changed everything for him.

  19. So if Bottas gets the boot, and Ocon “isn’t ready” / gets sideleined.. Then the way is open for a new king to ascend to the Mercedes throne. Lance Stroll, 2021. :-)

  20. What Valtteri Bottas is doing in one of the top seventeen positions is beyond me

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