2022 F1 driver rankings #11: Valtteri Bottas

2022 F1 driver rankings

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Formula 1 drivers work their entire careers to get the opportunity to race with a team at the very front of the field. Only then can they hope to fight for podiums, victories and, with them, a chance at the world championship.

So when Valtteri Bottas departed Mercedes – the dominant force in Formula 1 over the previous eight years – to join lowly Alfa Romeo, fresh from their worst championship position for five years, Bottas could be forgiven for feeling a little pessimistic about his prospects for the year ahead. But instead, Bottas flourished. Embracing his humble team to the fullest, Bottas emerged as a happier, more relaxed driver than he had ever been in his nine previous seasons in Formula 1.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2022
Fifth in Imola would ultimately secure sixth place for Alfa Romeo
It helped that Bottas had rocked up to Hinwil as his new team produced a genuinely good car. Despite reliability problems limiting their testing running, Bottas knew his new car had the potential to score decent points. And in the season-opener in Bahrain, he proved just that.

Missing the entire first practice session did little to slow him down and he stuck his new car on the third row of the grid. After losing a whole swathe of places at the start, he made the most of the Alfa Romeo’s impressive race pace to move all the way up to sixth by the chequered flag, thrilling his new team. On the first Sunday of the new season, he had acquired over two-thirds of Alfa Romeo’s points haul of their entire 2021 campaign.

He should have added more in Jeddah, securing eighth on the grid and running in the top ten before his car overheated, leading to him being called in to save its power unit. But over the next three rounds, Bottas would help himself to a generous serving of points, taking eighth in Melbourne and a season-best result of fifth in Imola, in spite of losing ten seconds with a cross-threaded wheel during a pit stop.

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He committed his first big mistake of the season in Miami, acclimatising himself to the brand-new circuit. His spin into the barrier in first practice ended his Friday, but despite missing out an entire hour of running, Bottas beat former team mate Lewis Hamilton to fifth on the grid. A small error out of the hairpin later in the race cost him positions to both Mercedes but he still came home in as ‘best of the rest’ in seventh.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022
Bottas suffered from unreliability far more than most
As the season progressed, the frequency of which Bottas lost track time on Fridays was bizarre. He suffered power unit failure in Friday practice in Barcelona, but put in another strong drive to take a further eight points. Then in Monaco, he overcame yet another failure in practice to run in tenth throughout the bulk of the race, being handed an extra point when Esteban Ocon’s time penalty was applied.

By now, Bottas had amassed 40 points – putting Alfa Romeo into fifth place in the constructors’ championship almost entirely single-handedly. But his rookie team mate Zhou Guanyu was finding more confidence and out-qualified him over the next three rounds. He battled to eighth place in Canada but gained another two points after Fernando Alonso was penalised for blatantly weaving on the back straight while holding him back on the final lap.

But as the season reached its middle phase, Alfa Romeo were being overtaken by their peers in the midfield. Bottas and Zhou were hamstrung by their car’s continued poor performance at starts, which was costing them multiple places at the beginning of most races. Ferrari provided them a new clutch for France, but if it was supposed to improve their launch capabilities, losing five places on the opening lap was not the improvement Bottas had hoped for.

In Hungary, he returned to Q3 for the first time since Barcelona, but after dropping out of the points positions in the race, he pulled off track in the closing laps with a fuel system failure – his third technical retirement of the year on top of the many more he’d suffered in practice through the first half of the season.

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Bottas would not see the chequered flag over the following two races either. He was the innocent victim of an unfortunate incident in Spa, where he ended up in the gravel trap avoiding a spinning Latifi, and then his car failed him a fourth time in Zandvoort – albeit while running with his team mate well out of the points.

As the season continued, Bottas was struggling to overcome the limited performance of his car as Alfa Romeo slipped backwards in the pecking order. He was also finding his team mate shadowing him far closer than he had at the start of the year and was even now being beaten by Zhou on occasion. Alfa Romeo were now on a scoreless streak and Aston Martin were looming up behind them in the constructors’ championship.

Late-season points in Mexico and Brazil were crucial
With the team’s final upgrades in the United States, Bottas secured seventh on the grid. With a genuine opportunity to score some vital points for his team, he threw it all away by losing control at the penultimate corner on lap 17 and spinning into the gravel out of the race – easily his biggest mistake on a Sunday all season.

But one week later, he redeemed himself in Mexico. He evoked early-season Bottas by storming to sixth on the grid between the two Ferraris and drove hard despite lacking the same race pace as those around him to cling onto a vital point in tenth, despite Pierre Gasly breathing down his neck on the final lap.

After making the wrong tyre call in wet qualifying in Interlagos, Bottas gained four places in the sprint race to start the grand prix 14th on the grid. As his Mercedes replacement finally secured his first grand prix victory, Bottas drove well to secure two points in ninth – a result that would ultimately secure his team sixth place in the constructors’ championship.

But when the pressure was at its highest at the final round of the season, Bottas was disappointingly inconspicuous for the second year in succession at Yas Marina. Zhou simply out-performed him across the weekend and was seemingly powerless to offer any kind of fight to Aston Martin. Only Daniel Ricciardo spared Alfa Romeo from heartbreak as Bottas crawled home a lowly 15th.

For the most part, Bottas’ first season with a midfield team had done far more for his reputation as a driver than his final years at Mercedes. As the Sauber team enter their final campaign under the Alfa Romeo branding and look ahead to a promising future as Audi, they will do so with the benefit of Bottas’s vast experience and strong team ethic to guide them.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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37 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #11: Valtteri Bottas”

  1. So I was thinking about the best performances(season) by an Alfa Romeo/Sauber driver in the last decade(since 2012) and came up with this

    1.Nico Hulkenberg(2013)-51 points to 6 for Gutierrez(15-1 in quali)
    2.Charles Leclerc(2017)-39 points to 9 for Ericsson(17-4 in quali)
    3.Valtteri Bottas(2022)-49 points to 6 for Zhou(14-8 in quali)
    4.Kimi Raikkonen(2019)-43 points to 14 for Giovinazzi(11-8 in in quali)

    Other seasons are not really worth shouting about.

    1. Hmm. I’m too harsh on Felipe Nasr and maybe even Pascal Wehrlein.
      5.Felipe Nasr(2015)-27 points to Ericsson’s 9(10-9 in quali)
      6.Pascal Wehrlein(2017)-5 points to Ericsson’s 0(11-7 in quali)

      These two are pretty interchangeable on pure performance.

  2. I see little reason to vote vettel or Sainz above Bottas. Bottas has had several Underwhelming performances, but also many great ones at the start of the season. He made one stupid race ending mistake, although the team interestingly said there was a gust of wind before he did, but Bottas accepted responsibility. Sainz made loads of errors and was pretty awful at the start of the season and also made quite a few more race ending mistakes than Bottas did. I also think he had less very solid performances overall than what Bottas did at the start of the season alone. Sainz did improve though. But given their cars, I can’t really say Sainz was better than him.

    Vettel did have a few outstanding performances, but he actually only finished in the points on two more occasions than Stroll did, who is down in 15th.

    Bottas was 11th in 2018, which arguably was quite obviously a worse season performance than this year. Yes, it depends on how well other drivers have done, but I would rate him in 8th (i’ve already done my ranking) with Ocon, Sainz and Vettel following behind in that order.

    1. @Ben Rowe-Nothing is guaranteed. And these lists are highly subjective. Bottas is obviously expected to lose against Hamilton. So it’s doubtful if his 2018 season was worse than this. I expected a much stronger performance from Bottas against a lowly rated rookie. Anyway there is a good argument on pure performance Bottas’ 2021 was worse than his 2018.

    2. Vettel had a much worse car than Bottas and he also had numerous bad strategies.
      He got consistently high positions while Stroll only managed 10th places for most of the season.

      Miami (crashed out by Mick), Austria (taken out by Gasly), Canada (useless strategy), Brazil (idiotic strategy) are some of the easy point finishes that Vettel missed out on.

      Vettel should not have even been in a position to challenge Bottas for 10th place with that Aston Martin.

  3. This is arguably Bottas’ worst season/least impressive in F1. He got podiums in his previous 8. And did a very impressive job against a very fast Maldonado in 2013 who was coming after demolishing Bruno Senna in 2012 on pure performance. This year after Monaco, Bottas was mostly horrible. Even got outqualified by Zhou 8-7 during this period. I fear his worst is about to come. Similar to Kimi actually.

    1. Well, excluding his debut season, this was easily the worst car he had. It’s unfair to expect him to score podiums. The only driver outside the top three teams to score a podium this season was Lando Norris (once). He maybe didn’t crush Zhou the way Hülkenberg thrashed Palmer but I find it difficult to label his season unimpressive.

      1. I don’t find it difficult at all. It’s relative to his other seasons that this season is the most unimpressive. He should have beaten Zhou more consistently than what he managed to. Like Gasly in 2021 or Hulkenberg in 2013. But basically for the final 2/3 of the season he was on par with Zhou. Which doesn’t look great at all.

        1. Maybe Zhou is a better driver than Hamilton? How’s that for your comparison?

          1. Bottas is expected to get beaten by Hamilton. At the same time he is expected to beat Zhou. But he got beaten by Zhou too much in the final 2/3 of the season. Which doesn’t look great.

          2. Not for Hamilton, especially….

        2. “But basically for the final 2/3 of the season he was on par with Zhou.”

          Let’s have a look at the stats. I went through the last two thirds of the season, that is races 9-22 (from Canada up to Abu Dhabi). I was unable to find data from the British Grand Prix, therefore it is excluded. Sprints have been excluded, too.

          Laps ahead: Bottas 431, Zhou 175. I’ve counted all laps that both drivers have completed. In other words, Bottas was ahead of Zhou after 71% of the laps in the final two thirds of the season.

          Prefer other metrics? Finished ahead? 5-2 in races that both finished. (This shows they had lots of DNFs.) Points scored? 9-5. Again, these include only the last two thirds of the season. Bottas is clearly ahead, no matter how you measure it. It must be said, though, that Zhou was better than I anticipated before the season – a decent driver, not many clumsy errors etc.

          1. Zhou retired in lap one in the British GP – that’s the reason for lack of data.

          2. Zhou had a ton of mechanical DNF’s. Off the top of my head Zhou got taken out in the first lap at Silverstone. Bottas got ahead of him because of a lucky strategy in Canada. And Bottas was getting destroyed by Zhou in Baku when his engine went boom.

          3. That’s exactly why I counted the laps ahead. That stat takes into account the races where either one retired until the retirement. Therefore, the DNFs don’t distort it in a significant way.

            You mention single races. In the last two thirds of the season (in which, according to you, Bottas and Zhou were very close to equal), there were 10 races in which Bottas spent more laps ahead of Zhou than vice versa, 3 races in which Zhou spent more laps ahead of Bottas than vice versa and 1 race where it’s a tie (Zhou retired on first lap). Do you think it’s all down to luck?

          4. Most of them are down to luck. Anyway my comparison starts in Baku. That’s when Zhou made a big step imo. When he was performing well on a weekend his engine went boom, he got taken out by someone or had a shocking start. I also think Zhou still hasn’t proved he belongs in F1. It’s just Bottas was horrible in the final 2/3 of the season. Apart from his best of the rest lap near the end of the season he had a shocker.

      2. I think Malith’s comment is meant to be a joke! or so i hope!

        1. Nope. It isn’t

  4. Somehow the review and the ranking don’t seem to match. With this performance, Bottas should be in top ten. One big race-ending mistake, a few anonymous races (albeit at times with bad strategies) and disappointing qualifying performances in wet conditions but in general, he extracted the maximum out of his car. Despite suffering more technical issues than drivers on average did. Given that he finished 10th at the WDC, I find it hard to justify a ranking outside the top ten.

    1. Vettel is going to leapfrog Bottas relative to the championship standings, for which there is perhaps a case to be made – Vettel had some high points that Bottas didn’t, and had the (much, especially early on) worse car.

      Still, that means the top 10 in points is going to include the top 9 point scorers. That’s not too imaginative, especially as cars are such a huge factor in how many points a driver can score. The big mismatches between those stats are obviously Pérez, Ricciardo, and to a lesser but not insignificant extend Sainz. That two of those are going to be in the top 10 seems a bit odd.

      1. I find it impossible to find any oddity with two drivers that have gotten pole positions on merit as well as race wins in a season to be outside of the top 10 drivers of that season.

        1. Pérez won twice, once when Ferrari bungled their strategies and he had the fortune to start ahead of his teammate in Monaco of all places, and once when the FIA went out of its way to find reasons to not penalize him for multiple safety car infringements. Meanwhile his teammate won a record breaking 15 times, and would have won more had he not had problems outside of his control.

          Sainz won just once, and might never have made the podium even in that race if things didn’t improbably fall his way; Verstappen hit damage, Pérez was sent to the back, and Ferrari sacrificed a leading Leclerc (!) to put Sainz on the preferred strategy post-neutralization. While Leclerc also ‘only’ won three races, he did so on his own strengths and would likely have won more if not for technical issues in Spain and Azerbaijan, as well as races like Canada where Ferrari was strong but Leclerc had to start from the back. And France, but that was his own mistake.

          And one pole for Pérez (8 for Verstappen) and two for Sainz (9 for Leclerc) also suggests neither succeeded in getting the most out of their cars even close to the number of times their teammates did.

          1. Don’t forget silverstone and monaco when we’re talking leclerc’s likely wins, bad strategy is where he got ruined here, he had huge margin on both.

            I agree, doesn’t matter if they won 1 or 2 races, that’s down to the car, their performance was barely enough to scrape in the top 10, like it often happened for number 2 drivers in top cars in recent years.

  5. Bottas handled the brief period that Sauber was genuinely at the front of the midfield well, had – as mentioned – tons of mechanical issues that limited his running, and when the car dropped back in terms of competitiveness he still scored points. Zhou increasingly matched him, but Zhou is no slouch. We all know his backing helped him secure the seat, but that doesn’t mean he’s slow. Just look at how often Stroll matches F1 legend Vettel: there’s this odd unwillingness among some parts of the F1 audience to accept that all these guys are very fine drivers, and that their hero of choice isn’t actually worlds apart in terms of pace and talent from the rest – including the much maligned ‘paydrivers’.

    Did Bottas do worse with the material he had than Sainz, or Pérez especially? I doubt it. These guys are seemingly going to cruise into the top 10 largely on the strength of their cars.

    1. Didn’t Sainz beat Norris as teammates at McLaren? He should be in the top 10 by default. He is matching Leclerc most of the time. No easy task.

      1. On pace he is nowhere compared to leclerc, neither in qualifying, nor in the race, I think there was often something like 3 tenths per lap between them.

        1. Wrong. After Baku in the final 14 races of the season the quali H2H between Sainz and Leclerc was 7-7. The gap was under a tenth.

      2. Don’t forget ferrari makes leclerc look worse and sainz better with a strategy team that is either terrible or catering to sainz, some spanish in there.

  6. It was just a standard Bottas season… Started off really strong and progressively got slower and made more and more mistakes. I’d always thought it was a case of him realising he was no longer in the title fight and losing a bit of enthusiasm so it was strange to see this season play out just like most of his ones at Mercedes.

  7. I don’t get these rankings… Although he made some mistakes, I thought Bottas was still better than Ocon and Sainz.. and was probably level with Perez and Vettel in terms of overall performance this season.

    1. Yeah. Super annoying no articles really go in depth and do a real driver analysis – especially for all the drivers that have driven poor cars their entire career. The whole Haas debacle is a good example – who is actually the better driver of Hulk, Mick or Mag? Nobody amongst the fans really know – we don’t have access to pitwall info, no sources in the garages, aren’t the confidantes of the people who really know the relative strengths of the cars. Is Bottas actually a better driver than Ocon (which is my impression) or Sainz (I suspect he is). What would happen with Mag in a Ferrari in stead of Sainz? So we keep guessing and have to live with an “analysis” that is basically just a listing of “who scored the most points” with a recap of events of the season and their derived minuscule effects on ratings sprinkled on top…

      1. Mmm, if you’re interested in who is better among midfield drivers you might want to take a look at f1 metrics blog, he uses mathematical models among team mates from all history to assess the strength of each driver, it’s however last been updated a couple years ago I believe, but even so, hulkenberg, bottas, ocon and magnussen already had plenty of data to get accurate estimates.

  8. Easily among the best for the first 8 or so races. Then flame out and became just an “also ran” for the rest of the year.
    Maybe they ran out of budget after such a strong start, who knows.
    What was looking like a mega season for him and the team turned into just a good season, as it was still much better than their previous ones.

    1. Sauber’s early-season form was deceptively good because they were the only ones actually under the weight limit.

      Unfortunately, that gave all other teams an easy way to improve their relative performance while Sauber was left doing actual development work. (and we all know how that turned out)

  9. Please, Will. Do a survey amongst all the team boss’es asking them to rate the drivers and publish at least the average ratings!

    1. Should they be forced to disclose any financial interest they may hold in a driver before participating?

  10. What we learned is that a tired and burned out old driver was still able to totally outshine his new team mate.

    One doesn’t handle a season-long stress, and one hasn’t got close to it.

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