Bottas trailling Hamilton despite ‘best season so far’

2019 team mate battles: Hamilton vs Bottas

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The hype machine went into overdrive when Valtteri Bottas won the opening race of the season. For two weeks all we heard about was ‘Bottas 2.0’ and witless porridge memes.

Coming off the back of a win-less 2018, this was a crucial victory for Bottas. When he followed it up with another win in Azerbaijan, and returned from the opening fly-away races as the championship leader, it seemed he genuinely was in with a chance of ‘doing a Nico Rosberg‘.

But the difficulty Bottas has faced in sustaining that championship challenge has served to prove what an overwhelming competitor his team mate Lewis Hamilton is. The pair divided up the first five races between them, taking one-twos in all of them, but then Hamilton went on a run of four straight wins, asserting his superiority.

After 10 races, Bottas was still within touching distance. Then he collapsed. A crash in Germany and a rash first lap in Hungary have all but killed off his title hopes.

Have they also ended his changes of staying at Mercedes? This would surely be a harsh call under the circumstances. Mercedes have taken seven one-twos from the first 12 races. Bottas has as many pole positions as Hamilton – four – and on average has lapped within a tenth of a second of his team mate on Saturdays.

As far as Bottas is concerned, this has been his best campaign to date. “On paper I think it’s been best so far,” he said. “For sure it still could be better. If I point out different races there’s for sure a few that I could have gained more points, especially [Germany].

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“Qualifying performance in general has been good. Race pace in general has been better than last year but still an area I need to work on, improve on.”

The problem for Bottas is that having started the season strongly, by the end of the summer break he will have gone four months without a win.

“I think the first few [races] I had the wind on my side,” he said. “[Then] I think Lewis got it. Then it’s been just a bit mixed and every race has been different. That’s just how this sport sometimes goes.

“It all comes down to me being at my best level weekend which is obviously in any sport or anything you do, that’s the tricky part, to get that one hundred percent or the maximum you can get out of yourself and nail every single session and set-up direction and lap in qualifying that matters and also in the race. There’s so many details to get right. But I still believe in myself as hard as I did after the first race of the season and I know I can win.”

Do Mercedes still share that believe in their driver? They are weighing his record so far against the potential offered by Esteban Ocon. Given how close Bottas has been to Hamilton on pure performance, if Mercedes do decide to promote Ocon, it will show they regard him very highly indeed.

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Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas: Key stats

Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas: Who finished ahead at each round

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Lewis HamiltonQ
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Valtteri BottasQ
R

Lewis Hamilton vs Valtteri Bottas: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time

2019 F1 season

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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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35 comments on “Bottas trailling Hamilton despite ‘best season so far’”

  1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    15th August 2019, 7:33

    I can agree the hype was a bit too much to begin with, but the opposite is the case now. He still appears to have more pace than this time last year. He may have had 2 bad results, but it should be noticed that Germany is the only time Bottas has been responsible for his own or anyone elses retirement in his entire F1 career. Based on that, it is unlikely to happen again. Any driver should get away with this once or twice. Verstappen started out badly last season and ended the half season very well. I’d say the opposite is the case for Bottas, but with less races being quite as bad as Verstappen. But admittedly, less good ones too. But Bottas overall really has not been bad this season. His qualifying pace is easily one of the best on the grid at the moment I’d say. His mistake in hungary looked worse as Leclerc did defend in an unneccesery way which made Bottas’s result worse. It will have likely been no worse than Hamilton in Austria without this. And Hamilton did also have a poor weekend in Germany.

    Basically, I think Bottas should remain with the team and I do think that despite his mistakes, he does have more speed than last year.

    1. As Toto said after the race; and was confirmed in Mercedes Pitwall debrief, despite the Leclerc clash Bottas had to come in for tyres anyway as he had flat spotted them by locking up at turn 1 and turn 2 on the first lap.

  2. Not a good way to sell yourself into a contract extension, Valtteri…

    Bottas: “I’m 62 points behind my team mate, have a quarter of his wins and will likely be overtaken in the championship standings by a 21-year old with a Honda engine – but this is as good as I get!”

    Toto: “Hello, Esteban? Are you free to come in and sign some paperwork later this week?”

    1. Toto: “So Esteban, tell us about this propensity you have to touch your teammate in races…”

      1. Toto: “So Esteban, tell us how much more points more did you earn than perez in both of your seasons…”

      2. Holy smokes, if he touches Hamilton I think Toto will literally explode.

        1. @julianwins
          There is no ifs, it will happen. On the other hand i think Ocon can handle the wheel to wheel with Hamilton way better than Bottas/Rosberg so they will touch in some very exiting and agressive battles. Think Verstappen/Ricciardo.

  3. The problem is that while Bottas had the best start of a season ever, so did Hamilton. A 5 times world champion, who’s won races every single year since his debut, managed his best results ever. How do you overcome that? Bottas pace alone can’t shake off Lewis, he needs other cars to be between them fighting or get on top of the physiological battle, which he doesn’t seem keen on doing.

    Ocon is an unknown quantity, and he might not even be faster than Valtteri. I think Toto will extend Bottas contract for another year.

    1. Exactly. In the Ocon/Bottas debate (and the Gasly/Albon/Kvyat debate come to think of it) you can’t ignore the fact that the drovers they are up against are exceptional and are at the absolute peak of their game. I’ve said it before, exceptional drivers make very good drivers look ordinary.

      Ocon is a fantastic talent, but he is not right for Mercedes at the moment. Another season with Bottas while Ocon shakes off the cobwebs with another team is the most sensible decision for Wolff to take.

      1. I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head here. We’re witnessing some of the best drivers ever in history this season and it’s unfortunate that those that are currently at 98% are potentially losing seats against drivers that have 100%.

        I mean, I do want the best in F1, but I will say it seems a bit harsh. Most people in the world couldn’t drive like Bottas and we’re talking about him like he’s a washed up has been.

        1. @julianwins Agreed. Bottas is in the unfortunate position of being the teammate against (arguably) one of the best drivers in F1 history. Rosberg was able to beat him, sure, but only after pushing himself to utmost extremes (losing weight by reducing leg muscles, for example) and applying himself 110%, so much so that after he achieved his goal, he had to step back because realistically he couldn’t sustain it.

          Hamilton is beatable, but it takes enormous effort and 110% commitment and even then it’s a close battle.

          I like Bottas, I hope the wind once again blows in his sails this season and he gets on top of Hamilton honestly – even if just to prove to the naysayers that he is actually capable.

  4. unfortunately races are not won on saturdays otherwise things would be looking better for bottas. its sundays that really counts. speed over 1 or 2 laps is 1 thing. but race race craft over a full race is another. also including knowing where and how to place your car during a race start or during the race. i think thats whats not in Bottas favor right now.

  5. Sonny Crockett
    15th August 2019, 10:39

    I really like Valtteri but if this is his best season so far then Mercedes need to replace him in 2020.

    1. This is also Hamilton’s best start to a season so far. I don’t know what more can be expected of Bottas.

      https://twitter.com/PurePitWall/status/1161559293973409792?s=19

      1. @shamrocknl
        Maybe its expected by Bottas to not let Hamilton have a free walk to his best season start so far?

  6. Has anyone taken into account that VB not beating LH in the race, but still maintaining a decent teamscore actually benefits Mercedes? If VB would have been at the same level of LH (assuming the same amount of points), LH would only lead by 40-ish points instead of his current 70-ish lead.
    Therefore Mercedes would be (short term thinking) better off with VB next to LH for 2020.

  7. The hype machine went into overdrive when Valtteri Bottas won the opening race of the season. For two weeks all we heard about was ‘Bottas 2.0’ and witless porridge memes.

    THANK YOU.

    1. That was an unnecessary swipe (of the beard) at milky oats.

      1. All the porridge memes were desperately humourless.

        1. I’d presumed that was the point :)

        2. They were somewhat grueling, weren’t they?

    2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      15th August 2019, 20:01

      The criticize machine also went in to overdrive when basing Bottas just on these last 2 races. Mercedes said they would decide over these 2 races and the summer break about Bottas’s future. not just look at these 2 results and base his future heavily on these which a lot seem to be thinking.

      But I do think Bottas’s start was very good. But I also do agree it was a bit over rated. But his overall season considering who he is against is still certainly good.

      1. He’s had 9 podium finishes. The only driver with more podium finishes this season is Hamilton (with 10).

  8. I think Germany can be forgiven. Bottas was AWOL in Canada and terrible in Hungary, the rest of the time he’s been OK but very average, especially in overtaking and moving up field quickly enough when recovering from issues or mistakes. Enough for second driver status. The issue for Mercedes is Hamilton leaving one day. Unless they can snap up Verstappen, they need to identify an alternative.

    1. Russel is the future. Look how well Albon and Lando are doing and he spanked them both last year.

      1. I agree he looks the best prospect right now. Though too cautious to be exactly in the Hamilton or Verstappen mould.

  9. I’d say this was his best start to a season and he’s looked like a vastly improved driver but his problem is that this is also probably the best start to a season Hamilton’s had too – so while Bottas has raised his game hugely, Hamilton took a step too and remains comfortably ahead.

    I don’t want to diminish his achievements because compared to the Bottas of last year this one has been a different guy. But maybe it’s harsh to say but regardless he’s still behind Hamilton. Much smaller gap, absolutely. But still behind.

  10. He was starting to become a problem, in the end mercedes dien’t need to do anything for things to fall in the right place, anyway they still did, ruining bottas victory chances in a couple races, in silverstone averyone still puzzled to why did he pitted first of the top runners and incredibly early.

  11. NeverElectric
    16th August 2019, 4:30

    It took Nico Rosberg 3 seasons, a team-instigated takeover of Hamilton’s mechanics, a mental coach and a whole heap of luck and Hamilton equipment failures to beat Hamilton in the same equipment. And he was so worn out by the effort that, immediately he lucked into the WDC, he fled F1 rather than have to defend the title against Lewis.
    Bottas has barely tested Hamilton, and I laughed when people kept talking about “Bottas 2.0 winning the title” – never stood a chance.
    I’d keep Bottas because he scores just enough points for Mercedes to win the constructors, as Lewis disappears into the distance with the WDC. Ocon might end up costing Mercedes points, especially on tracks where Max is at par with the Mercs and Ocon has to overtake him or defend against him – you just know that will end in tears.
    don’t change a winning combination, Mercedes.

    1. good 1 neverelectric good 1…

  12. It took Nico Rosberg 3 seasons, a team-instigated takeover of Hamilton’s mechanics, a mental coach and a whole heap of luck and Hamilton equipment failures to beat Hamilton in the same equipment. And he was so worn out by the effort that, immediately he lucked into the WDC, he fled F1 rather than have to defend the title against Lewis.

    This. The only reason Bottas 2.0 isn’t currently competing for the championship is that Hamilton hasn’t had the repeated mechanical issues he did in 2016.

  13. Yes, and Max is still an unknown against Lewis. We still have to see Max under pressure to win a title, maybe next year! Then we can draw comparisons, but at the moment Lewis is the best driver out there and Max has still to prove otherwise.

  14. On paper, it seems that Bottas can exceed his points haul of 2018, in a year that Hamilton is performing perhaps at his best ever. And also in a year where Red Bull is improved, Ferarri is improved. I would certainly keep Bottas. The challenge is how to give Ocon (if Mercedes truly feel he is “the future”) a ride, and more than that, a ride where he can really develop.

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