Could Valtteri Bottas emerge as a genuine threat to Lewis Hamilton in 2020, after what he described as his best season so far last year?Circuit of the Americas, Bottas drove one of his best races of the season, decisively seeing off his team mate.
Power unit problems interfered with his final two races, but he charged superbly from last to fourth in Abu Dhabi. And it bears pointing out that Hamilton didn’t have any such problems last year, which contributed partly to the gap between the pair of them, though it certainly did not swing the championships outcome.
Nonetheless Bottas could justifiably feel pleased with his year’s work after a win-less 2018. “For me, personally, it has been my best season for sure so far in terms of pure results and speed and on average,” he said. “I give myself maybe eight [out of 10], so I definitely can do better.”
Qualifying: Lap time
The lower the lines, the better the driver performed
Bottas was usually on terms with Hamilton in qualifying, and beat him a few times too. But as he acknowledged he needs to do so more consistently if he is to become a genuine season-long threat.
“I’ve made good gains on all the areas,” he said. “The consistency has been better than in previous years.
“But still overall during the season, still to be able to master every single track and condition, that is the thing. So I would say mainly just consistency over the year, being able to be at my best all through the year, that’s the main thing.
“Obviously that comes from many, many details and I can’t really point out one. So overall, I feel there’s many, many things I could do better.”
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Race: Start versus finish
Had Bottas capitalised more successful on the few occasions he did beat Hamilton in qualifying, he could have pushed Hamilton harder in the title fight. Before the summer break he followed Hamilton home in China, Spain, Great Britain and Hungary despite having out-qualified his team mate.
The season began on a high, as he came from behind Hamilton to win in Melbourne, a race Bottas picked as his highlight of the year.
“After the tricky season I had before that, having that kind of a win to kick-off of the season, it was exactly what I needed for my confidence and general well-being,” he said. “So it was good moment and that’s the highlight.”
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Race: Share of points
Race: Results versus other drivers
Hamilton turned the tables on Bottas over a 12-race period across the middle of the season where Bottas only out-scored him twice. It was a respectable effort by Bottas, and enough to earn him a fourth season at Mercedes.
However Bottas knows he has incremental gains to find in every area to rival the most successful driver in F1 today. “I believe if I look at it overall the season has been my best so far in Formula 1,” he said. “But still not a season that I’m aiming for. I still need a bit more consistency [and] fewer mistakes.
“But the thing that gives me good feeling and confidence for the future is now actually really starting to see the work we’ve been doing with the engineers and what I’ve been doing with myself and driving-wise, and being really able to target many of the weaknesses I’ve had, and been able to improve my pace in different circumstances quite a lot. So that’s very satisfying to see and makes you want more.”
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Race: Reasons for retirements
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26 comments on “‘It was my best season for sure so far in terms of pure results and speed’”
Stephen Crowsen (@drycrust)
7th February 2020, 7:44
As much as I’m a fan of Valtteri’s, I don’t think he will be a genuine threat to Lewis for the next few years. However, I think he’s good enough to win the WDC in the very unlikely event Lewis lost interest in racing.
7th February 2020, 8:04
He is a good boy, yes he is, good boy Bottas, I have a cat called Rubinho, my next dog might be Bottas.
7th February 2020, 8:53
The fact that Bottas claimed 2nd place in the drivers’ championship just shows how dominantly overpowered Mercedes still is.
A M (@amam)
7th February 2020, 11:47
Bottas didn’t finish P2 in 2017 or 2018 which backs up opinion Ferrari had similar performing cars to Mercs in 2017 & 2018
Re 2019, Merc was the clear best car but “overpowered” is perhaps the wrong term to use. Ferrari had the best horsepower in 2019. Binotto states 20bhp advantage.
8th February 2020, 21:52
@drycrust Which other driver could though? Even Alonso had to bow down to Hamilton when Hamilton was still a rookie.
There are drivers who perhaps at some of their favorite tracks could beat Hamiton. However as Bottas exclaims every season, Hamilton just gets (close to) the maximum out of the car in all circumstances and on pretty much all tracks.
Like Schumacher, Hamilton is relentlessly present in almost every race. I don’t know any driver currently in F1 who could pull that off over a whole season.
Not Verstappen. This year he blundered away 3 races (Spa, Monza and Mexico) and underperformd in races like Bahrain and Canada (although the latter was perhaps more a team error in Q2)
Certainly not Vettel or Leclerc either. Leclerc seems to do a decent Q3 by now, but his race pace is very poor. Plus he makes way too many mistakes still. Ricciardo perhaps has the stamina and is reasonably error free and good on most tracks, but he’s a tad too slow in Q3.
Besides, people seriously underestimate Bottas. Seeing how Massa and Raikkonen were on par, Bottas beat Massa by a bigger margin than Vettel beat a further washed up Raikkonen later on. I’m sure Bottas would have done a lot better in that Ferrari than Vettel did.
7th February 2020, 7:50
For sure this is a fitting review for Bottas.
7th February 2020, 8:23
Paid homage to his favourite phrase in the title, no less :) @coldfly
7th February 2020, 8:04
I wonder did challenges in his personal life have an impact on his performances
If so , hopefully he recovers and does better in 2021!
7th February 2020, 9:29
F1 always has a handful of good boys. They have the car, they have the speed, but they don’t like banging wheels.
There is a lesson to be learn there. Rosberg understood that, did what he had to do, and got his title.
Bottas only hope is a four way title fight with Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton. Some unintended consequences of that fight may favour his “excuse me sir” approach.
A M (@amam)
7th February 2020, 11:51
To b fair, Rosberg benefited from Hamilton having multiple, one-side reliability issues. But Bottas’s performance gaps to Hamilton were similar to that of Rosberg’s.
7th February 2020, 12:37
So tired of people acting like Lewis’ 3 blown engines in 2016 compared to ZERO for Rosberg was some Nico “figuring” things out. Complete joke and Merc should be ashamed form sabotaging their driver. The catered to the lesser driver and altered history. Idiots.
8th February 2020, 11:40
Exactly how I see it.
7th February 2020, 12:59
Rosberg and Hamilton took each other out in several races. They were best friends, became worst enemies on track.
Well noted your point on HAM mechanical failures in 2016, but Rosberg won fair and square. Him overtaking Verstappen as if he was just passing another backmarker, or keeping it cool when Hamilton boxed him in front of Ferrari can illustrate my point.
Hamilton knew Rosberg could take him if he slips, and that’s what ROS did.
Bottas never put this kind of pressure over Hamilton. He makes it easy, and I think that’s exactly why he kept the seat.
José Lopes da Silva
7th February 2020, 13:40
He does not put that kind of pressure over Hamilton because he doesn’t have the speed.
“F1 always has a handful of good boys. They have the car, they have the speed, but they don’t like banging wheels.”
I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Bottas doesn’t have the speed. “To have the speed” means to be able to compete over 20 races, and not in 4 or 5 races.
Maybe he gets the speed next year. We can only hope so.
“They have the car, they have the speed, but they don’t like banging wheels.”
Maybe you’re talking about Eddie Irvine? But Irvine had the car, loved banging wheels, but did not have the speed. He lifted and coasted whenever required. Is he not a good boy?
7th February 2020, 16:27
Rosberg beat hamilton to the title full stop!!
A M (@amam)
7th February 2020, 16:35
No one is denying this, but equally, let’s not deny Hamilton’s poor mechanical reliability played a major part
8th February 2020, 11:44
I agree but anyone who cannot see that with ALLL the reliabilty issues , Rosberg beat him by just FIVE POINTS!
Yes one point is all it takes but its quite clear that Rosberg was and knows he was lucky.
8th February 2020, 21:55
Yes he did, but not because
Rosberg was crushed by Hamilton in 2016 over all races where both their cars worked. Rosberg didn’t do anything special, he simply had a car that didn’t break down so much and even then he barely won.
7th February 2020, 14:56
I don’t expect VB to seriously challenge LH this season. That would require the gloves coming off, as Toto put it a few years ago, and there is still no aura of that happening with VB whatsoever, imho.
I still think of it like this…when Mercedes utterly dominated F1 with LH and Nico, with no others even close, TW knew he had a responsibility to F1 and it’s audience to let his drivers race and deal with the difficulties that came with that rivalry, that unique dynamic between those two drivers with their history. Had he not done that we would have simply had more seasons of MS/Ferrari where the winning team each weekend was in little doubt, and through their one-rooster philosophy the winner between the two drivers was never in doubt either…the ultimate predictability.
Once TW’s hand was forced to find a replacement, and that coincided with Ferrari improving albeit not to WCC level but at least providing a challenge at times, TW had the responsibility removed for providing the show for the audience. He could resort to leaning mainly on LH with their task being fending off Ferrari rather than dealing with two roosters sitting 1-2 on the grid most of the time.
So to me, while Mercedes have talked about the easier time it is on the team without that tense LH/NR rivalry, the options seem to be either lean on one driver to take the share of the points when you’re unable to lock out the front row, leaving the other driver to perform rear-gunner type duties, or you have two drivers both with the gloves off. LH/VB just does not have that gloves off feel to it.
That all said, much is going to depend on where the cars stand amongst each other. If it is still Mercedes as WCC with Ferrari and RBR second and third, then we’ll have more of the same as 2019. Here’s hoping Ferrari and or RBR are even closer to Mercedes this year. And if so, VB is screwed. He needs the standout WCC car, and to truly take off the gloves and best LH in a rivalry. Can’t see it.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
7th February 2020, 15:04
Bottas and his gloves seem very related in almost all your comments about Bottas and Hamilton, if you don’t mind me pointing it out :D
I knew i would see gloves off somewhere in this comment.
7th February 2020, 15:10
@robbie – nice point about Toto’s differing approach to the driver pairing in those two parts of this hybrid era.
@thegianthogweed – let’s face it. Bottas is Finnish. It’s cold there. The gloves aren’t coming off ;)
7th February 2020, 15:36
@thegianthogweed Lol pardon my predictability. Just quoting TW which I thought was the best way of putting it. Lovey dovey on the team is all well and good, but if VB wants to change his fortunes…well…you know what has to happen lol.
Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
7th February 2020, 19:45
Yea there are no issues, don’t worry! :D I just felt it coming. But we can have out different views. I still feel Bottas remaining as good as he is is likely to keep him that seat, even without an improvement. I personally thing the line up is ideal.
A M (@amam)
7th February 2020, 16:45
The gloves can off both drivers until one of them starts to pull ahead,open up a gap in the championship race.
Merc allow their drivers to race until a clear leader is organically established & then only use team orders in the most crucial of situations.
Re Ferrari, their car was WCC capable in 2018 (and not far off in 2017). IMO, (and many in the paddock), they had the best 2018 car but made too many mistakes (driver espec-and team)
8th February 2020, 21:39
@robbie This gloves coming off nonsense has never worked for anyone. It didn’t work for Rosberg. His insistance on playing mind games actually back fired. It just made him insecure so much that he kept chocking if Hamilton put him under any kind of pressure. Even worse, he was in such a state that he immediately jumped out of F1 once he got a lucky WDC due to Hamilton’s abundance of technical issues that season.
Besides, in fact Bottas has played dirty all season. Almost every time Bottas would go out first in Q3, he purposefully messed it up by taking a fast out lap and then braking hard at the end of the lap so Hamilton would end up way to close behind. It even almost caused a crash between the two cars at Spa. In Singapore Q3 Hamilton simply decided to fly past after Bottas insisted on parking his car on track.
So ‘taking the gloves off’ (and playing dirty) worked for Bottas in Baku, but after that Hamilton was pretty much the wiser to his antics.
Maybe you could say it worked for Leclerc at Monza when he played dirty and got away with it instead of getting beaten, but he was incredibly lucky to get away with it. Plus, Hamilton let it slide since he had no fight with Leclerc.
8th February 2020, 21:26
But that’s just it. Bottas often seems to sacrifice race performance for that bit extra in Q3. Which then makes him awfully slow in the race.
He seems to rely on Mercedes’ awkward ‘political correctness’ rules on not allowing team mates to best the car in front of them. But then he messes up the start or his race pace is so slow that can’t keep his position or even gets overtaken by other cars starting from behind him.
Or perhaps Hamilton just focussed more on race pace than all other drivers in the top cars. Which clearly worked better than Bottas’ approach. Both Bottas and Hamilton had 5 poles, but Hamilton had 11 wins vs “only” 4 for Bottas.
Even worse the result for Leclerc who got 7 poles yet took only 2 wins. While Hamilton had 3 wins out of those 7 Leclerc poles.
On the other had, if Hamilton took pole, he would go on for 60% of those races take the win too. By far the best ratio of all drivers.
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