Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Race pace, not qualifying, was my most improved area – Bottas

2020 F1 season

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Valtteri Bottas says his race pace was the area he improved most significantly during the 2020 season.

The Mercedes driver finished runner-up to team mate Lewis Hamilton in the championship for the second year in a row. He took five pole positions during the 17-round campaign, and came close to out-qualifying Hamilton on several other occasions.

However Bottas believes his Saturday performances were not the most improved area of his game this year.

“It was extremely close many, many times this year [in qualifying] and even in top three as well,” he said. “We had good qualifying battles with Lewis.

“Obviously in the races more often, as the points show, he got the upper hand. But I can’t really say that qualifying was was the biggest thing that I improved. I would say actually the race pace overall this year was a little bit better. But obviously there’s always more work to do.”

Bottas said the season had been “a bit mixed”, after finishing behind Hamilton for the fourth year in a row.

“Of course I didn’t meet my targets for the year in terms of results. But still now looking at the big picture, there’s so many positive things and so many more lessons learnt about driving and about myself and everything that I can again carry into next year and really turn that into into a strength and try again.”

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34 comments on “Race pace, not qualifying, was my most improved area – Bottas”

  1. The pole position thing has never been all that important unless on tracks that are very hard or near imposable to over take on. Yes I know it has become more a thing in recent years but that comes back to poor track design and the heavy reliance of aero to increase performance making overtaking hard.
    I mean it’s nice to get pole but in the end it’s just another secondary statistic than means little when looking at the big picture of winning GP’s and championships.

  2. Fifth time lucky or how it went

  3. But I can’t really say that qualifying was was the biggest thing that I improved. I would say actually the race pace overall this year was a little bit better. But obviously there’s always more work to do.”

    How bad was Bottas’ race pace to begin with. Qualifying is the only area where he could challenge Lewis. On Sundays Lewis was easily a few leagues ahead of Valterri.

    1. I guess the key is in the “a little bit” there @todfod – so his race pace was a tiny bit improved vs. last year, but still obviously far enough from what he needs to be. And well, he still has trouble navigating traffic and making passes in the race. So yeah, more work to do for Bottas.

      Not hoping for anything anymore, but would be really good for everyone if he did find that skill to be a factor to worry other drivers. Otherwise, I can see him easily gotten beaten by Perez in quite a few races over next season

      1. but would be really good for everyone if he did find that skill to be a factor to worry other drivers.

        Not sure what would be best. If he improves (to where he should be) he’ll be another driver in no man’s land; too slow to follow Lewis, but too fast for the Red Bulls. @bascb
        As 2021 might become 2020 Revisited it ‘would be really good for everyone’ if Mercedes allowed all other drivers one race weekend in the second Mercedes.

        1. Yeah, well I think we all know that is nonsense Mercedes won’t go for anyway though @coldfly.

          If they won’t/can’t put Russel in (my guess is both contract with Williams but mostly, just he doesn’t really fit in the thing) for 2021 why would they hamper their efforts by just throwing in anyone who will feel out of their depths for a weekend in the Mercedes. I don’t think Bottas will actually be “too fast for the red bulls” for the majority of next year. And if he does improve (a lot) on the sundays, he would give Hamilton at least a bit of a challenge.

          1. @bascb Russell will be in the seat 2022 it would have been next year but for circumstances and timing. I would think Ocon shortly after.
            Bottas may be under a bit of pressure next year but Merc will hold enough of an advantage to help maintain the lead.

          2. Ahm, yeah @johnrkh, off course he will. Not so sure about Ocon, I guess for him a lot depends on how he does next to Alonso at Alpine.

            But that does not change anything about Russel NOT being in the car for the coming season and needing Bottas to get a grip on his race speed, does it?

          3. @johnrkh

            Ocon just isn’t good enough. He needed to be significantly closer to Ricciardo to ever have a chance to get back in Mercedes’ good books. As @bascb mentioned, his performance against Alonso might dictate his post 2022 future, but honestly, Kvyat has looked closer to Ricciardo in 2015 than Ocon has looked this season.

            Russell is a far more promising talent.. maybe a #1 driver for Mercedes in the future. A #2 driver at Mercedes would need to be a dependable and harmonious teammate for Russell. I don’t think Ocon fits that description.

          4. @bascb Like I said the Merc will be far enough ahead of RB for Bottas to do his job. I don’t think Bottas is as bad as people make him out to be.

    2. @todfod I think Ocon did improve significantly by the end of the season, he was up against one of the top drivers in the field. I do agree a lot hinges on his performance next year, the harmony thing I can’t say.

  4. Bottas won’t improve from where he is, he is at his ceiling and the only way is down. He has had his crack at the title in the Mercedes but is constantly outclassed by Hamilton and then by Russell. Before long he will be a seat blocker, there because he is there.

    1. He’s already a seat blocker.. in fact.. Russell proved that there are more worthy drivers for that second seat. Honestly, I believe Bottas is still in that Mercedes set because of Red Bull and Ferrari’s inability to challenge them. If we see Red Bull and Ferrari regularly mixing it up with the Mercs, then the pressure would be on Toto to find a driver closer to Lewis’ pace… up until then.. they’re fine with having a driver who could still finish on the podium and maintain team harmony.

      1. @todfod

        With the arrival of Perez at Red Bull, Mclaren switching to Mercedes engines and two young and energetic drivers at Ferrari, 2021 is absolutely critical for Bottas cause Hamilton performs a lot better whenever Mercedes is challenged by other teams. Any 0 pace moments or passive moments from Bottas next season will be important. Can you imagine 6-8 drivers fighting for podiums? I really don’t think Mercedes will have a 2014 or 2016 pace advantage for 2021. If he somehow costs Mercedes a driver’s or constructor’s championship next season, I would not mind him out of that seat. He has had 4-5 years in the best team of the sport.

        1. I hope you’re right, but I ‘m afraid of the opposite. An improved midfield will make things (more) difficult for RBR so Merc will steam ahead to another double title untroubled.

        2. @krichelle

          “With the arrival of Perez at Red Bull, Mclaren switching to Mercedes engines and two young and energetic drivers at Ferrari, 2021 is absolutely critical for Bottas cause Hamilton performs a lot better whenever Mercedes is challenged by other teams”

          This assumes that the other teams will be able to challenge Mercedes on pace. If the rest of the top 6 dont reduce their deficit, it isnt going to make too much difference. I would like to think that a sharp Perez in a Red Bull will give James Vowles something to think about every now and again, but I doubt its going to make too difference if Mercedes maintain their current level of dominance.

          I haven’t looked at the stats, but how many more races would Red Bull have won and podiums would they have had if Albon was on the pace? I’d like to think they’d probably have had a few more podiums, but not necessarily wins.

          I’d be surprised if Mclaren, Renault, RP or Ferrari can challenge at the front next year, I hope I’m wrong though. There may be a few tasty battles between the Mercs and Red Bulls, but I doubt it will be consistent, and over the course of the season, Merc and Lewis will come out on top.

  5. “I would say actually the race pace overall this year was a little bit better”

    Overall, I would actually agree with him on this one however the caveat here is that in achieving an increased race pace, he seemed to make a lot more mistakes.

    His starts have become a real issue and his racecraft remains poor. He struggles to defend strongly and I can’t honestly remember a good non-DRS overtake from him (I’m sure there are some but nothing springs to mind)

    Overall – despite any minor improvements in specific areas – I’d say he’s further behind Lewis than ever. It feels more like a Schumacher/Barichello situation by the season.

    1. Agree very much on racecraft. I have to take my mind ago the way back to Silverstone 19 to remember a time when Bottas passed his team mate that wasn’t at a start. Even then he lost the position again at the next corner.

      Yes the Mercedes is average in traffic but we have seen many many back-row to podium races out of that car over the years, Bottas can’t seem to get out of the lower half of the top ten.

  6. To cut a long story short, Bottas is a very good 2nd driver… and that’s it.

    For sure on his days, he can be very fast and can match Hamilton over a lap. But overall is is clearly behind Hamilton, there is no match championship wise.

  7. Well, good for him in looking for positives (and I take it a given that he has looked at the data with his engineers so knows this to be true), esp. with the races being where he needed most work. Have to agree though with the multitude of good and eloquent posts that point out that ‘a little’ better pace isn’t going to be enough, and won’t make people see him in that seat being a lost opportunity for someone better.

  8. Bottas needs to find 2 things – they have nothing to do with driving;-)

  9. Qualifying I’d say he was relatively close – a few times he only lost out through very tiny margins, but don’t know why he’d say his race pace had improved as I’d say it had been pretty poor. His starts were bad and generally whenever he was ahead of Hamilton there was a sense of inevitability that Hamilton would pass him while if Hamilton was ahead of him you knew Bottas had no chance of closing up. Too many times he was in second – but miles behind.

    There’s no question Bottas is a good driver but he’s certainly not getting the best out of that Mercedes and so those ‘tiny margins’ that separate him and Hamilton become gulfs, and Russell really didn’t help the impression that Bottas simply isn’t doing a good enough job. Worth saying if this was Red Bull he’d have been replaced long ago.

    1. I agree with this analysis. Overall I think he had a pretty average season and does not seem to be getting any closer to Lewis when it matters. You could never really see him challenging Lewis over a whole season.

    2. @Adam

      Qualifying I’d say he was relatively close – a few times he only lost out through very tiny margins

      Relatively close with tiny margins? He was out qualified 11-5. That is over half, and not “a few times”. Furthermore, out of 11 times, he was out qualified by a gap of over 1sec in some cases.

      The truth is, Bottas’s qualifying performances has only improved since he was given Lewis’s performance engineer (Ricci) in 2019. Incidentally, this was his best year ever in terms of performance and being close to Lewis.

      Coincidence? I think not. Bottas is not necessarily a slow qualifier. He is certainly faster than Albon, Gasly, or Kyvyat, and would certainly give Verstappen more competition than they have done.

      The problem is, Lewis is simply much better than he is on every single level.

  10. I think four seasons in a top team with a fast car should be more than adequate to show all the skills a driver needs to have. Bottas has had his chances. In one race in an unknown track, Bottas with all his experience in the team could not dominate Russel. Enough chances. Enough seen. Enough said.

  11. The problem is that race pace and quali pace are interchangeable variables. Hamilton tends to be working more on getting better tyre handling and race pace in free practice. You hear the same from Perez (and others). They focus on getting a good race setup.

    Then you have drivers like Bottas and Leclerc who perform well in Q3, but then drop back during the race. They can’t make their tyres last, their race pace is slower than you’d expect.

    So these drivers saying that their Q3 performance is good or even improved is not really saying much. It just means they switched their focus.

    It might work. If they manage to qualify ahead of people that they would otherwise have finished ahead of them and manage to keep ahead of them during the race, but with Bottas and Leclerc too often it seemed like it hurt their Sunday result more than it did them good.

    Although Leclerc often got the “see where he puts that tractor” bragging rights. The fact that he then subsequently finished the race outside of the points was quickly overlooked, because it was a tractor to begin with and Vettel was doing vastly worse anyway.

    Bottas doesn’t have that luxury since Hamilton is extracting the maximum from the car and it makes Bottas look poorer than he needs to be.

  12. How bad was his race pace in previous years if he was better this year?

    Because this year a 22 year old got into a cockpit he could barely fit inside of and setup for another driver, and was immediately on the pace as he was still working out all the functions and settings in the car, searching the car’s limits.

    48 hours later that same driver controlled the race from the start ad on his way to a dominant win over Bottas even though he didn’t know what the wear was going to be on his tyres, etc.

  13. The race pace is better so he is improving, but to be fair, he also has the worse crew as we saw when Russell could just parachute into the other car and be faster from day one proving that one side of the garage is just better as well.

    But as we saw, simple things like not having thought through how to defend into T1 is really inexcusable. Same is reading and engaging on social media when it’s bound to be toxic and affect him like it did.

    I wish he could let his shoulders down and pull out all the stops for the coming seasons. As it looks he still has 2 or 3 more years at Mercedes, so still time to improve even more.

    1. The race pace is better so he is improving, but to be fair, he also has the worse crew as we saw when Russell could just parachute into the other car and be faster from day one proving that one side of the garage is just better as well.

      I put that down to Russell’s driving ability being better than Bottas’s.

  14. Great news, considering he was quite good in qualifying already.

    However in the race he was outclassed by his 2022 seat pretender George.

    It would be best for F1 show, for Lewis to loose 0.2s in race pace. Bottas will strugle to gain that.

    Now no offense to Bottas or unfair criticism. Hardly any driver can deliver similar race pace in the history.

    For the show part we need someone younger from a new generation of even faster drivers and age to catch up to Lewis.

    Red Bull have one of those faster drivers, saddly their car is perpetually handicaped to that Mercedes, so Bottas has a quite unfair task of dethroning Lewis in equal machinnery.

    This year it was doable, Lewis did many errors and missed a race, the best opportunity by his standards. And Bottas was not even close.

  15. I do hope Bottas gets closer to Hamilton next year, considering his most recent results.

  16. It doesn’t appear to matter which aspect of his driving he improves against Lewis.

  17. Improving race pace??? He’s he dumb? He was trashed in the last few races.

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