2019 F1 driver rankings #5: Valtteri Bottas

2019 F1 season review

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Remember ‘Bottas 2.0’? When Valtteri Bottas passed his pole-sitting team mate and won the Australian Grand Prix by 20 seconds, the two-week period until the next race was filled with breathless prose about the transformative effects of porridge and untrimmed facial hair.

But – to stretch a tired analogy well beyond breaking point – by the end of the season it was clear Bottas had experienced not so much a full version upgrade, more a minor optimisation.

While he clearly performed better than he had during his frustratingly win-less 2018 (Sochi moral triumph notwithstanding) it was debatable whether he was a significantly greater threat to Lewis Hamilton than he had been the year before.

It’s easy to take the high standard against which Bottas is being judged for granted. Hamilton is a six-times world champion, but over the first 10 races of the year Bottas kept him honest. A pre-summer break slump for Bottas, where driving errors saw him take just four points from Germany and Hungary, put Hamilton in the clear.

Prior to that Bottas regularly qualified well, finished nine out of 10 races on the podium and even won a wheel-to-wheel tussle with Hamilton in Baku. What let him down over the opening races were the four occasions when he started ahead of Hamilton but took the chequered flag behind him. Later in the year he showed he could put that right, but by then Hamilton was more regularly out-qualifying him.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Superb COTA win couldn’t prevent Hamilton taking title
After following Hamilton home at Spa, Bottas took points off his team mate against the run of play at Monza, as Hamilton over-extended himself throwing everything he had at Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

As Hamilton moved within touching distance of the title, Bottas produced some of his best performances of the year. He out-qualified the champion-elect at Suzuka, shot past the Ferraris at the start and took a fine win, though he would have had more of a fight on his hands had Mercedes not brought Hamilton in for a second pit stop he may not have needed.

Mercedes were usually equitable in their approach to their two drivers, but Bottas got the rough end twice in Singapore. He was not impressed with Hamilton’s tactics in qualifying, which disrupted his start to the lap, and had to be told to back off at one stage to prevent him jumping ahead when Mercedes were wrong-footed by Ferrari on strategy.

Valtteri Bottas

Beat team mate in qualifying7/21
Beat team mate in race6/19
Races finished18/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate326/1233
Qualifying margin+0.12

Bottas was in great form at the Circuit of the Americas too, taking another pole position and taking the win away from a tyre-troubled Hamilton. But that came too late to save his title hopes.

By the end of the season it was perhaps fortunate Bottas wasn’t a few points closer to Hamilton as his Brazil power unit failure, and consequent grid penalty at the season finale, would have been an anti-climactic end to their fight. Even so, Bottas was sub-par in Brazil, ineffective in his efforts to pass Leclerc, but made up for it with a superb charge to fourth from the back of the grid at Yas Marina.

Late in the season Bottas pointed out, not unreasonably, that the distraction of securing a contract extension at mid-season was hardly what he needed at what proved the low point of an otherwise strong year. He certainly demonstrated another year in silver is deserved, and if he makes the same kind of gains this winter as last he could make Hamilton’s life very uncomfortable in 2020.

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Over to you

What’s your verdict on Valtteri Bottas’s 2019 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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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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41 comments on “2019 F1 driver rankings #5: Valtteri Bottas”

  1. If & when Hamilton leaves the team or retires(likely to be sooner than Merc’s possible exit from F1), they’d need a driver capable of winning titles. Bottas can be that guy if he keeps improving.

    For other options, Russel is promising enough. Or they can simply sign up Ricciardo.

    1. Bottas can be that guy if he keeps improving.


      He can if they don’t get another good driver. And if Merc are still on top.

  2. Doesn’t deserve to be above Danny ric or even seb

    1. @theessence Or even Perez. Shame that these rankings get so colored by the car and points, although I know it’s controversial to say much different than the points table. If for example Bottas was in a Williams this year, would he be ahead of Russell? I very much doubt it. Then he would be ranked waay down.

      1. I think the fact that Stroll getting more points and finishing more races in the points before the summer break tells a lot about just how underwhelming Perez’s start to the season was.

        He was simply excellent for the rest of it (scoring points in every race but the one he had to retire in. But a lot of the season was very poor given who we are comparing him to. Stroll didn’t do better exactly in the first 12 races, but certainly wasn’t much worse. If Perez’s season had been like his remaining 9 races from the start of the season, then being as high as 4th would be fine. But with rather a lot of underwhelming performances including crashing out of a big points scoring opportunity in Germany, 6th or lower is a fair place for him IMO. Certainly don’t think he’s been better than Bottas.

    2. @theessence, the thing is, in the case of Ricciardo you could point to the five different accidents he had during the season. He might have had some high points, but I also feel that he made some errors which were much larger than any errors Bottas made and errors that can’t be justified by arguing about the car he had (e.g. reversing into Kvyat in Baku).

      Similarly, in the case of Vettel he also had some rather notable errors, such as spinning himself around when fighting Hamilton in Bahrain or spinning himself off track in Monza and then hitting Stroll when he rejoined the track unsafely. Vettel might have shown flashes of speed, but also some rather poor lapses of judgement that, in the case of the Monza incident, were potentially dangerous to other drivers too.

      1. I agree with anon because if you subtract his teammate from the equation, Bottas would have been champ as well as being the best prospect for 2020 season. In terms of driver performance, I’d probably rate him 3 or 4, but I’m looking forward to reading Keith’s reasons for placing certain others above Bottas.

    3. sEB?? 😂😂😂

  3. What can you say about Bottas? Consistent, fair, good boy…

    He is the right man for the job, as many excellent wing men before him.

    But how many would bet on him if all grid were driving equal cars? Can you imagine him beating 15 of the 20 drivers to finish 5th?

    I mean, beating Russell, Sainz, Norris, Kvyat, Perez, Raikkonen on equal cars. If you think he would, then 5th it is. My guess is he would be a little far back.

    1. Russell only proved himself against Kubica. In his first year I think he is not at Bottas level. Same ad Norris against Sainz. And the spanish is not at Verstappen or Hamilton level, so, again, Bottas is at least on the same level of Carlos, maybe slightly better.
      Kvyat, come on, he is far from Bottas level, Torpedo is noto consistent nor fast enough.
      Who else? Perez appeared strong against Stroll, probably the worst driver in quali apart Kubica. Again, at least Bottas is on same level in races and far better in quali. Raikkonen also had easy life with Giovinazzi. The former Ferrari driver in his day is still one of the best on the grid, but no more motivated for a full campaign.
      So, if not 5th, probably 6th with the same equipment, as, to me, only Ham, Ver, Lec, Vet and Ric are ahead of him.

    2. Bottas made less mistakes than those two. I rate Danny but remember his first half of the season was sub-par and riddled with silly mistakes. He got his self together and came back to the old Danny after mid-season. Seb as you know. Is a continuation of 2018 Seb except this time he got worse because he was actually slow for three quarters of the season. Replete with silly mistakes. For the actual skill of driving and brinign home the car where it belongs, Bottas definitely did better than thise two this year. IMO of course.

    3. The ‘equal cars’ thought experiment is such an interesting one.  Would everyone be driving a Mercedes?  Or would they get a Red Bull?  Or maybe even a Haas?
      A different car might give a totally different result.  Kimi is one of those guys who seems to favor certain types of car-handling.
      The machinery and the team are so intertwined.  I’d love to see more regular interviews with team principals, engineers and designers. maybe a mechanic or two?  

    4. Not really the point, but there should be a support race putting all 20 drivers in the same car (911, Renault cup, w/e) on Friday or Saturday. Would actually like to see what difference the driver makes.

  4. I think this is about right for Bottas. Leclerc is quite a bit too far ahead of Vettel though. In the end, they were pretty close on the whole performance wise and both missed out on a similar number of points down to bad luck, but for different reasons. I personally think Vettel should be around 6th or 7th rather than 10th. Then Leclerc being this high would be ok.

    One driver who I do think has done well this season is Sainz. But I think the car is far better than some realise. I think it is very often quite easily best of the rest. Usually quite some distance ahead of the other teams and behind the top three. This to me makes rather a lot of Sainz’s races unchallenged. He had several where he did put up a good fight this year, but I have a feeling that if other teams were closer to McLaren, he wouldn’t be rated as high. I personally think Sainz’s wheel to wheel racing often is pretty poor based on his past. He has got very little coverage this year and I think that is because he’s too often been in the middle of nowhere, though admittedly getting the best possible result pretty often. Can’t fault him in any way for this.

    I just think that having a rookie as a team mate and a much better car than Mclaren had last year is somewhat flattering his performance. Being outqualified by Norris is not good at all though. He may have done convincingly better in the races, but I feel a lot of it is down to how good the car is and Norris being pretty underwhelming. Others may disagree, but I think Sainz being above Bottas in 4th or 3rd place is a little step too far. Bottas may also not have much of a challenge from other competitors, but he’s looked very good against Hamilton given just how highly Hamilton is rated. I think 5th or 4th is right for Bottas, but wouldn’t have him below Sainz.

    1. Ben Rowe you are sick with Sainz. Please go and visit your Doctor!! He had an incredible season and you keep posting ridiculous lies since so many years!!!

      1. @richardjames, the impression that you give is that you seem to have something of an obsession with Sainz – every single comment you have ever written on this site is about Sainz, either aggressively abusing others who have said anything that is critical of Sainz (or sometimes having a go even if they are offering a positive comment, just one that isn’t positive enough for your liking), or heaping massive amount of praise on top of Sainz.

        In being so aggressive towards others, at best you’re going to simply make people turn away from you and at worst you’re going to end up tainting Sainz’s perception on this site by making people associate him with people giving out aggressive abuse.

        If you want people to believe Sainz has had a great season, then put forward a coherent argument – throwing angry insults is going to make people turn against you and against Sainz, achieving the very opposite response to what you want to achieve.

  5. One thing that I think should be pointed out about Bottas’s season since the summer break is that he really hasn’t got a great deal less points that Hamilton especially taking into account his retirement and grid penalty.

    By the end of the United States GP, he had scored just 2 less points since the summer break than Hamilton.

    In Brazil, although Bottas seemed a bit underwhelming, we should consider that he had just done 11 laps on his tyres which was next to nothing and Mercedes pitted him at a bad time which resulted in him coming out behind Leclerc. Given his engine gave way moments later, I don’t think we should be too against him for struggling to get by Leclerc. He was often within under half a second on the start of the straight, but the Ferrari just pulled away. Then his engine gave up.

    Even without Bottas finishing this race, Hamilton still has only got 8 more points than him since the summer break. Adding on the next race with Bottas starting from the back, that grew to 20 points.

    To make it more fair, we can pretty much guarantee Bottas will have been 2nd in Abu Dhabi without his penalty, so that would reduce it to 14 points. And if he finished in Brazil, I think you can add on at least another 10 points (though he likely will have finished higher than 5th with all that chaos) That makes the difference just 4 points.

    I am aware I am ignoring that Hamilton lost a few points in Singapore and Japan due to strategy, but still, Bottas will not have been far off him points wise, and had a little luck swung his way, he could quite easily have got more points than Hamilton at this stage of the season.

    He had bit of a dip in the middle, but if he starts and ends the season like he did this year and works on his middle, with a bit of luck, he has more of a chance to beat Hamilton like Rosberg did. Although in different areas, I think he is more or less level with Rosberg now in terms of challenging Hamilton.
    I myself feel mercedes will be keeping hold of Bottas beyond next season actually. The team just works so well with the line up they currently have and there is no point interfering.

    1. @thegianthogweed

      You touched on it in your last paragraph, but Bottas did all this while being the ideal teammate. He didn’t take Hamilton out, he didn’t cause drama. Part of the credit goes to Hamilton for racing cleanly as well. Contrast him to Vettel, who was inferior to his teammate and gave Ferrari serous grief.

      This is exactly what Bottas needed to do if he couldn’t beat Hamilton.

      Finally, he did all this while going through a divorce.

    2. @thegianthogweed Bottas had a “misfortune” of teaming with the best driver this season. I agree with your points and on his days, Bottas is super quick and can be unbeatable. However, on weekends when Mercedes are clearly only 2nd or 3rd best car, Hamilton still giving huge threat for the race win or podium and he often nails it while Bottas has lonely race way behind in 4th, or 5th just ahead of the second Red Bull. It’s not as bad as it sounds because normally all driver had a bad day, it’s just Hamilton that performing superbly this season.

      1. The races where i feel Bottas did underperform where it wasn’t just hamilton making it look that way was especially noticeable in Bahrain and France. Maybe one or two others too. Bahrain was basically the opposite story for the first race. Hamilton simply drove away from Bottas and Bottas didn’t seem comfortable with the car. In France, he seemed ok at first but then the last 10 or so laps dropped right back and looked to be under threat from Leclerc. But what Bottas has hardly done this year is let these stages of seeming to lack pace actually result in the drivers passing him. That happened too often near the end of the season last year.

        1. That has to do with the performance of the car as well, which was superior in 2019 compared to 2018, even in the end!

  6. I think that Bottas its being overrated in this ranking. If we consider: a) The point difference between him and Hamilton; b) that at some stage during the year we guessed that Bottas may not get the 2nd place in the drivers championship; and c), that his highlight race was the last one, were his teammate achieved a grand chelem. I should say that the Mercedes car is the one that hide his poor performances.

    1. jamt, if you take in to account the excellent post by @thegianthogweed just above you, do you still think so? Because I think he made good points that counter/neuter what you mention – of course, with the Williams neither driver would be WDC, but I do think that in the Mclaren they might have put that level with Red Bull, and in the Red Bull, Hamilton might still be WDC, with Bottas around the two guys in the Ferrari, and the team close to beating Ferrari to the WCC; with Ferrari, I think they’d be WDC and WCC, with Bottas 2nd (though there you will validly point out the car advantage again, I suspect ;-)

      1. I don’t really think so, mercedes was by far superior this year, there’s no way hamilton would win a title in any other car this year, in 2018 or 2017 it’s likely and possible ofc.

    2. The Mercedes car as well as Hamilton both being as good as they were in a way didn’t help Bottas. As the difference in points between 1st and 2nd is far bigger than any other positions. Bigger than between 2nd and 4th even. The points gap between Hamilton and Bottas is not always totally representative of their performance. I think this position is about right, I just would probably rank him one higher. It is pretty touch to decide who to vote after Hamilton and verstappen.

  7. I think it’s quite fitting that Bottas supposedly eats porridge for breakfast, because he is just like porridge: plain. Sure, at some times, there can be a bit of berry flavoring, but it’s mostly just bland. Bottas is just such a frustrating driver to watch; he severely lacks a killer instinct. I think the race in Brazil summed up why Bottas will never be world champion because while drivers like Verstappen and Leclerc were going up against the established stars and making statements against them (like Verstappen overtaking Hamilton around the outside of turn 1, and Leclerc divebombing Vettel when he was napping), Bottas couldn’t even get past Leclerc for so many laps despite having a faster car and newer tyres. At the end of every straight, he was more than close enough to make a move, but he kept braking early because he lacks belief, and eventually he overheated his engine. I can’t wait until he is back where he belongs: the upper midfield.

    1. You blaming Bottas for over heating his engine is a bit much. In that case, Hamilton’s engine should have gone bang in Italy. We can’t really make to much of a judgement on Bottas in Brazil when his engine gave up.

      There was a time when Hamilton’s engine gave up one time in 2016 when he had been following a back marker. He couldn’t get past. Maybe when the engine is about to give way, it lacks some speed?

      1. @thegianthogweed I think it had more to do with the age of the engine. It wasn’t his fault at all, but him having to stay behind Leclerc for so long can’t have helped. Especially at that altitude, when there is already less air entering through the intakes.

    2. @mashiat, given that Mercedes themselves noted that the oil consumption of Bottas’s engine had been rising and then shot up to an abnormal level the lap before it failed, blaming him for an engine that seems to have been pushed to the limits of its operating life does seem a bit much.

      Equally, whilst you complain that “Bottas couldn’t even get past Leclerc for so many laps despite having a faster car and newer tyres”, Leclerc’s car was fitted with a brand new engine and the timing splits showed he was generally faster in the power dominated first and last sectors, with the first sector generally being the one with the best overtaking spots (Turns 1 and 4).

      1. I was talking about at the end of the straights. Whether the Ferrari engine was quicker or not is irrelevant, as numerous times he was close enough at the end of the straight to make a move, but didn’t. It was a move that would have been considered simple by the likes of Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Ricciardo, etc. Even Albon has more about him when it comes to wheel-to-wheel racing.

  8. I didn’t make my own full rankings, but he was #4 in my top five (and in the team principals’ rankings).

    Don’t think he gets the credit he deserves from many. He, alongside the #2 Red Bull, has the toughest team-mate to be compared against but he was in no way embarrassed by Hamilton this year. He was beaten, obviously, but not by a ridiculous margin… and being beaten by Hamilton is different to being beaten by Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz, etc.

  9. His season was more consistent than the 2018 campaign, but the laps ahead stat is still awful: 326/1233. Almost 1000 laps behind Lewis is not encouraging for Valteri.

  10. I do suspect that Bottas is contractually a number 2 at Merc, despite them publically declaring otherwise. Totos sound bite slips have also suggested he at least has a favourite driver and clear expectation of the other to get in line.

    The “James its Valterri” and “to whom it may concern. .. ” radio messages suggest also that he does have fight in him.

    Some say he is plain. Id say hes just finnish and therefore carefully in control of his expresaion of emotion.

  11. “It’s easy to take the high standard against which Bottas is being judged for granted. Hamilton is a six-times world champion”

    This is a logically flawed argument in my view. It’s precisely because Bottas is not an amazing driver Lewis has managed to be a 6 time champion.

  12. So the drivers left are Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz if im not mistaken

    Tough choices but in my opinion Bottas defo beats Sainz and Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen should share second place.

    Remember that If Lewis was not the champion, Bottas would be. He had a very strong season.

    1. And a very strong car, without which he’d have never beaten verstappen, nor leclerc.

      Comparing with sainz is debatable because of the wider performance difference (of the car), but if you drive like hamilton (sainz, roughly), then you will beat bottas with the same car ofc.

  13. Mark in Florida
    22nd December 2019, 23:27

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Bottas is not a Nico Rossberg by any stretch of the imagination. Bottas won’t go against Toto nor protect his position. He is is a good wingman and that’s it. No potential for a title as long as Lewis is there. At least Nico made it interesting it’s not even that now. Next year…… Lewis for champion.

  14. I’ve said it many times before that Rosberg really wasn’t as great as people think. I still feel that Hamilton always regarded him as an easy beat because he’d beaten him fairly easily throughout their careers and really didn’t stay in the right headspace because of it.

    Once beaten by Rosberg, we’ve seen a very different and far more focussed Hamilton, which to me has kept Bottas behind more than Bottas’s failings in any way.

    If Hamilton had a year where he lost focus they way he did with Rosberg, I’d expect Bottas to win a WDC and prove he’s no slouch. Don’t see it happening though.

    1. This is also true, hamilton definitely improved, he became better placed when you try to make a reasonable top 10 drivers of all times, since 2018 than he was before.

    2. @dbradock Hamilton knows there is nothing he cold have done better in 2016 though. He couldn’t have overcome the technical issues he had bettrr han he did. He lost many opportunities to participate in Q3 and even had to start at the back of the grid to compensate for all the broken drive train parts.

      If both Rosberg and Hamilton had a well functioning car, Hamilton was beating Rosberg 3 out of fout races. Pretty much identical to the beating Bottas has received this season.

      1. Mark in Florida
        23rd December 2019, 21:37

        I agree with most of what you’re saying. Except Rosberg clearly pushed Lewis harder than Bottas has. Every time he started giving Lewis a lot of pressure he was told to back off or pitted at an inopportune time that put him back compared to Lewis. It’s all opinion and it doesn’t change the fact that Lewis is a great driver whoever is put against him.

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