Valtteri Bottas, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #12: Valtteri Bottas

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If RaceFans did an end of year series ranking drivers who had enjoyed themselves the most during the 2023 season, Valtteri Bottas would be a lock for a top three spot.

From unleashing his inner bogan by sporting a rat-tail and a moustache to publishing his own nude calendar, Bottas became one of the more colourful characters on the grid in 2023.

Since losing his seat at Mercedes at the end of the 2021 season, Bottas has found a loving new home in Alfa Romeo. As the senior driver in a team for the first time in 2022, Bottas seemed to flourish in the role of team leader at a modest midfield outfit.

He scored 49 points in his first season at Alfa Romeo – a large bulk of which over the first third of the year – to help his team to a brilliant sixth place in the championship. But while Bottas and team mate Zhou Guanyu were hopeful they could at least build on that in 2023, their car simply did not have the speed they were hoping for.

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Monaco, 2023
Bottas put his experience to good use in Monaco
Instead, Bottas scored just 10 points over the entire season – only slightly more than he managed in his first race with the team in 2022. With one of the slowest cars in the field, Bottas was easy to overlook during 2023. But looking a little deeper at his season, his performance was better than it might appear at first glance.

Although Zhou fared better against him in their second season together than during his rookie campaign, Bottas still had the measure of his younger team mate. He finished ahead of Zhou almost twice as often in the 17 rounds where they were both classified and spent more than half of the racing laps ahead of him. But it was qualifying where Bottas was comfortably the stronger of the two, winning the season-long duel 16-6. Bottas secured a better grid slot eight times in the final nine rounds of the season between Monza and Abu Dhabi.

But Formula 1 is about far more than beating your team mate – you’re occasionally going to have to beat other teams too if you want to score points. Bottas managed to get into the top ten on four Sundays in 2023, including the opening race of the season in Bahrain, where a brilliant start put him in a strong position and he made the most of it to take the ‘best of the rest’ position of eighth, beating the Alpine of Pierre Gasly home by a second.

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He came close to adding to his total twice more in Australia and Monaco with two 11th place finishes, gaining four places during the latter which is an achievement in its own right at such a tight track. Finally, a second top ten came in Canada where despite losing tenth to Lance Stroll in the final metres, he gained the place back following Lando Norris’ post-race time penalty.

Valtteri Bottas

Best Worst
GP start 7 (x2) 20
GP finish 8 (x2) 19 (x2)
Points 10

Bottas had to wait until Monza in September for his next point, but it was perhaps his best drive of the season after Bahrain. Starting on the hard tyres, he gained four places from his starting position of 14th without any drivers ahead dropping out or any Safety Cars to jump him above rivals and passed Nico Hulkenberg and Logan Sargeant in the final stint – despite contact from the Williams in the process – to cross the line in 10th.

The final points came during that punishing evening in Qatar. Bottas had already put in a strong showing earlier in the weekend, securing a rare Q3 appearance in Friday qualifying before taking tenth place in the sprint race on Saturday, then made good work of his strategy to secure Alfa Romeo’s best finish of the entire season in eighth.

Although he missed out on points in Las Vegas, Bottas demonstrated both skill and resilience after he arrived for the weekend fighting a stomach bug. Despite his illness, he still reached Q3 to take seventh on the grid after Sainz’s unfortunate grid penalty. But his opportunity to fight for another top 10 was taken from him when he was caught up in the turn one mess and suffered damage which hampered his efforts.

Valtteri Bottas, Fernando Alonso, Las Vegas, 2023
He qualified well in Las Vegas but was taken out
Vegas was an example of how easy it could be to overlook the quietly decent job that Bottas was doing over the course of the season. While he did not have many of those blockbuster weekends that a lot of his peers had, he also had far fewer instances of major mistakes or just struggling for pace than many of those who scored points far more regularly than he did over the season.

Of course, there were moments where he knew he could and should have done better. He was unspectacular in Baku and after securing his best grid position of the season in Hungary, he gave away far too many positions on the opening lap and spent over 20 laps unable to pass Alexander Albon late in the race. But when it came to truly poor weekends, Bottas hardly had any at all.

Over a year that saw one of the most competitive fields in history – outside of the number one spot – Bottas’s season was ultimately defined by how Alfa Romeo just could not seen to find a way to unlock more performance out of their C42.

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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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20 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #12: Valtteri Bottas”

  1. That’s a great picture of him isn’t it?
    Imagine seeing that in your rearview mirror :)

  2. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    16th December 2023, 13:04

    I wrote this on the planet F1 forum, and had been writing it accross the season as I follow Bottas closely, and his performance certainly has been underapprichiated by many. This ranking is about the right place for him. His luck has been so bad this season, and what I’ve written shows this.

    He’s had possibly the worst luck of any season in his career, and in an odd way too. It is more related to damage rather than retirements -none of which were his fault. Here is the list, and it is big.

    Saudi Arabia: Damage on lap 1 –
    Piastri’s front wing came sliding towards him and wrecked his floor. That would have been impossible for any driver to avoid.

    Baku: Damage on lap 1 –
    He was on the outside of Turn 2 with Piastri on the inside of him, then Albon also went down the inside, hit Piastri and then Piastri lost control and hit Bottas which damaged his diffuser and bodywork.

    Spain: Floor damage –
    The team reported that they found significant damage to the floor after the race, which is highly likely the reasoning behind Bottas being nearly an entire minute behind Zhou, who was in the points. The team think it was from damage on lap 1. I think it is possibly from debris from Norris’s front wing when he and Hamilton made contact.

    Austria: Damage on lap 1 –
    Tsunoda’s end plate came flying Bottas’s direction and while it was stuck under the car for a few seconds, Bottas really had to fight with counter-steering to keep his car on track. Then he had the damaged front wing until he pitted, and quite possibly floor damage too.

    Britain: Disqualified from qualifying due to no fuel sample –
    Though he got no damage, and being disqualified was correct, it was 100% on the team.

    Japan: Damage on lap 1 – Later knocked out the race by Sargeant –
    Bottas made a very good launch, getting past Magnussen and clearly going for a gap that was there between Ocon and Albon, and he actually will have passed Albon if Ocon hadn’t gone so far left without factoring in that Albon was also along side him. Albon also had a lot more room to his left and actually started to give a bit of space, but at that point Ocon hit Bottas, which made Bottas lose control and hit Albon. This wasn’t his fault in the slightest. Then he had a very long front wing change, followed by going out and getting walloped by Sargeant, and then his car was just too wrecked to drive.

    Las Vegas: Damage at front and rear on lap 1 –
    Perez followed behind Bottas closer than almost any other drivers were behind other cars through the first corner and this resulted in contact. Yes, Bottas had to slow down, but others managed to steer around the chaos due to the extra room they gave – Perez did not and he broke Bottas’s diffuser. Alonso also spun right into Bottas’s path after Perez hit him and as a result, that broke his front wing too. His car was very damaged which is supposedly obvious given he finished last, nearly 35 behind seconds Sargeant who was the next driver up and 85 seconds behind the race leader after barely 20 laps since the safety car.

    If not for all these, he actually would look a fair bit better than Zhou than he has done, and likely would have gained a place at least in the WDC.

    1. That’s about a third of the races, and does seem quite an unlucky list.

      Still, it’s hard to see Bottas as anything other than a stop gap solution for Sauber while they wait for Audi to appoint their own line up. It’s always hard to tell, but it doesn’t seem like the current Bottas is quite as motivated or sharp as the Bottas who could, on an admittedly rare day, be faster than Hamilton.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        16th December 2023, 19:11

        I would agree that I don’t think Bottas is quite as good as he used to be. But there have been several times this year where his speed has looked really strong, and it probably has gone unnoticed due to the limitations of the car. I think he was really under rated in Monaco, then Britian was another great race given he had to start last. He also had a solid first race of the season, and also looked at about his best accross the whole weekend in Las Vegas, but Alonso and Perez basically wrecked his car.

  3. Should have this guy drive next to Verstappen.

    Would basically get rated dead last.

    The irony with these ratings.

    1. I am fairly sure Bottas would have reached Q3 with very few exceptions and that there would have been many RB front row lockouts.

      He can’t outrace Verstappen over a season, but he would be very well placed to capitalize on the rare occasions that the fellow Red Bull would have had to start out of position.

      I think he would have secured second place with races to spare, without ever really bothering Verstappen of course,

      1. Yes, he’d have done better than perez for sure, he’s a good qualifier and never looked like he was unworthy of being in a top car at mercedes (or almost never, unlike gasly and albon, who were extracting toro rosso like performance from a red bull!), and I’m pretty sure he’d still have won those couple of races where verstappen had a quali issue and an unlucky VSC like perez did.

        1. I think that is a bit unfair; the Merc was dominant because of the engine, which skillwise requires you to be able to press a pedal.
          The RB is competitive (2021/22) and dominant (2023) because of its aero, which requires a driver to be able to handle it to extract the performance.

          I’m not saying Bottas is a bad driver, but neother do I think Albon, Gasly and Perez are all of them bad drivers. It does take more to get the best out of a RB though.

          1. RBR with its 10+ kmh advantage on the straights? the challenge was more not to fall asleep after lap 2.

      2. The field spread is far smaller than ever during his time at Mercedes and unlike Hamilton Verstappen actually doesn’t have a few off days every 10 races. And Bottas looked poor next to Hamilton who himself lacks consistency over a season next to Verstappen.

        So it’ll be just as bad. In fact I’d assume it’ll be worse for Bottas given he won’t be even able to pass cars.

        People seem to miss something fundamentally different these regulations wrt quali gaps. 2 tenths of the polesetter can see you P6. Bottas at Merc could get p2 while being 5 tenths off Ham. Best example is Spain 2019. Ham was 6 tenths off bottas and got p2 yawn.

        1. race performance had RBR 1+ seconds ahead of any other car in 80 % of all races

        2. No one is arguing that Bottas is as consistent as Verstappen. We were comparing him to Perez.

          Contrary to your cherry picked example, Bottas usually qualified within 2 tenths of Hamilton, and was occasionally faster. Also, he did seem to cope better with the pressure of being paired with a multiple WDC.

          If there is a valid argument against assuming that Bottas would have qualified that Red Bull very high up the grid, then you haven’t brought it.
          He would not have needed to pass a lot of cars if any to consistently score podiums.

  4. This ranking is comically high. I hate the fans that complain the oldest drivers are taking seats younger drivers should have when all that matters is speed and results. But Bottas really is a mediocre known quantity taking up space. He barely out performs Zhou. I’d get his purpose if he seemed motivated to improve his results or push the team, but he does neither.

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      16th December 2023, 16:29

      You really should follow the season more closely if you state that he barely outperforms zhou. He’s had a lot of bad luck and there have only been 2 races where it was very clear that zhou beat him, without bad luck on Bottas’s side. You could add mexico onto that, but many thought Stroll’s collision with Bottas wasn’t exactly Botta’s fault. The article even states the fact that Bottas finished more than twice the amount of races that both were classified ahead of Zhou, then there is the list of bad luck on Bottas’s side that I listed above – that highli likely was the reasoning behind Zhou beating him on several other occations. It really hasn’t been that close between them. I would say based on the description of the article, 12th is fair for Bottas.

      1. OK, there was a clear gap instead of “barely” edging him. But he didn’t come anywhere close to making him look like he was in a totally different class IMO. And that’s what one would expect from a guy who was supposed to be on the edge of the tier 1 driving class.

      2. Ok Ben. Bottas needs so many excuses to be even rated. Tells how his seasons are going.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          17th December 2023, 20:05

          the excuses are relevant if bad luck is a good portion of what has prevented him looking better. Many of the occasions where he recieved damage was after a good start / good race so far. Virtually everyone that comments on Bottas has little to say but a few negatives. At least I point out much more than that.

    2. It’s a bit like saying ocon outperformed alonso their last season as team mates, luck can have a massive difference and points don’t tell the whole story.

  5. I’m sorry to say, but for Valtteri Bottas was the worst driver this season – not Sargeant, not de Vries, not Lance or Sergio … All things considered.

    Valtteri is not a rookie, not even a novice. This was his 11th season in Formula one, a seasoned veteran with all those seasons at Mercedes under his belt and a 10-time Grand Prix winner.

    That he was barely able to keep ahead of Guanyu Zhou for most of the season, a man who had to pay $30 Million for his seat, is astonishingly bad.

    The low point was at Zandvoort when he was passed in the last couple of laps by Liam Lawson, an absolute newbie in his first race, and a wet race at that.

    It seems as though Valtteri was somewhat unfocused this season, and only towards the end of the season when it became apparent that Theo Pourchaire was coming along, did Bottas up his game.

  6. Did Bottas really had rat tail? Or Will is mixing it with the mullet? I mean mullet is fine, but rat tail would actually be near perfect.

    Hopefully for next season he will combine them with bowl cut on the front.

    As for his driving I wasn’t impressed, very anonymous. So I guess just about the correct ranking.

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