Valtteri Bottas

Bottas supreme in season opener


Valtteri Bottas claimed a surprise victory in Australia, with Mercedes showing unexpected post-testing pace, while Max Verstappen edged out the Ferraris to round out the podium.

Despite claiming pole position, Lewis Hamilton made a poor start and fell to P2, before sustaining some damage to his floor that affected his overall pace. After an early pitstop from Ferrari, Hamilton was brought in to cover off a potential under-cut, but with a long second stint ahead of him the potential to challenge for the win quickly faded.

Ferrari seemed to be caught off-guard by Mercedes’ pace, mostly scrapping with each other more than those around them. At the first turn, Leclerc found himself on the outside of Vettel and ran wide, before recovering in the middle phase of the race to be on his teammate’s tail. After asking the team whether he should attack or hold position, he was instructed to fall back. This brings into question Ferrari’s claim that the two are “free to race”, considering team orders were imposed without the championship, or even a race victory, at stake.

Red Bull rounded out the podium with a strong showing from Max Verstappen, delivering Honda’s first F1 podium in 11 years. Pierre Gasly however disappointed during qualifying, being eliminated in Q1, and struggled to make his way through the midfield. Following a pitstop for Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, it looked like Gasly might jump into the points after emerging ahead of the junior team driver. But a determined Kvyat reclaimed P10 and held off Gasly to claim the final points paying position, justify his reinstatement but causing headaches for Gasly.

Haas showed that their performance during testing was genuine, easily out-pacing their nearest rival Renault. Despite a retirement for Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen delivered a strong haul of points.

Daniel Ricciardo in particular suffered from the home-race curse on debut for Renault. After being forced onto the grass at the start and bouncing over uneven ground, he emerged without a front wing. Pitting for a new nose left him at the rear of the field with almost no hope of points.

Despite the indignation upon it’s introduction, the battle for the Fastest Lap bonus point proved noteworthy. Max Verstappen claimed the Fastest Lap in the late phase of the race as he closed the gap to Hamilton ahead of him, but Bottas snatched the accolade with a blistering lap that denied all challengers any chance.

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner admitted that they were considering pitting Gasly as a sacrifice in the attempt to deny the Mercedes drivers the bonus point. By claiming the Fastest Lap, Gasly would not have been eligible for the point as he didn’t finish within the top 10, but it would have robbed the front-runners. Ferrari also had a chance to pit Leclerc (and if they wanted to also Vettel) to try to claim the extra point, but decided against it, a decision they are reviewing post-race.

In what Bottas called his “best race ever”, he leaves with the odd stat of having the greatest points lead in F1 history over the next driver after round 1. Interestingly, 26 points isn’t the greatest number awarded in a race, that honour going to Lewis Hamilton who claimed all 50 points on offer when double points were available in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2014 season.

Bottas supreme in Russia!

Valtteri Bottas held off four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to win the Russian Grand Prix in a thrilling end to an otherwise lacklustre race.

“It took quite a while, more than 80 races but it was worth the wait, worth the learning curve,” said Bottas. “This strange opportunity came to me during the winter to join [Mercedes] and I really want to thank them. Without them this would not have been possible.”

Bottas was supreme off the line, and on the clean side of the grid, and squeezed past the two Ferraris to fulfil the promise of his pole position last race in Bahrain. 

Vettel finished in P2 but extended his lead over Lewis Hamilton in the championship with teammate Kimi Raikkonen behind and the top three a long way ahead of the Brit. After failing to make any positions at the start, Hamilton spent the race managing temperatures and largely having a race to forget.

Max Verstappen had a lonely race finishing P5 in a lonely race, losing his only companion on the track Daniel Ricciardo in the early phase of the race when his brakes cooked themselves.

Kimi Raikkonen claimed the fastest lap, the constructors' championship has closed up to just 1 point between Mercedes and Ferrari, but Valtteri Bottas' maiden victory will be on the tip of everyone's tongue from now until the next race in Barcelona.

"Mercedes wants Bottas" Toto shows his hand

With the Red Bull drivers secured and both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso apparently off-limits, Mercedes have made their big play, and it's the underrated Finn Valtteri Bottas that has been given the kiss of death.

Valtteri claimed the only podium result for Williams this season, and although it was thought interest from the top teams had wained after Ferrari elected to retain Kimi Raikkonen rather than bring Valtteri into their stable, it seems that the desperate position Mercedes find themselves in after the shock retirement of reigning world champion Nico Rosberg could be just the lifeline his career needed.

Andrew Benson from the Big British Castle writes:

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has zeroed in on Bottas as his favoured option as a replacement for Rosberg, who retired five days after winning his first world title last month despite having two further years on his Mercedes contract.
Wolff has approached Williams with a proposal that he gives them a major reduction in their engine bill - said to be in the region of €10m euros (£8.4m); more than half the total fee - in return for releasing Bottas.
Williams also have the option to run Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein in Bottas' place.
Wolff, who is part of Bottas' management team, sees the 27-year-old as a close like-for-like replacement for Rosberg - quick, a reliable and consistent points scorer, and relatively easy to manage alongside the more mercurial Hamilton.

Throw into the mix the potential of Paddy Lowe switching from Mercedes to Williams and you can see how these negotiations could get complicated very quickly, absolutely not what Mercedes need right now. 

The biggest issue with poaching Bottas away from Williams is that they will be left without anything like a senior driver. Even bringing in former Williams reserve driver Felipe Nasr doesn't come close to rebalance the loss of Massa and Bottas (19 seasons combined F1 experience). 

Other potential options for the Mercedes seat included junior driver Pascal Wehrlein, and even retired former world champion Jenson Button. Bottas however was always the most likely first choice, with the overlooked Carlos Sainz a likely back-up if a deal can't be agreed upon.

Toro Rosso have agreed that "Chilli" Sainz would be released from his contract if Mercedes came knocking on their door, although without an engine deal between the teams it'll require ponying up for the full amount. 

Nico Rosberg victorious in Italy as Hamilton fails to launch

Despite taking pole, Lewis Hamilton had a shocking start to the Italian Grand Prix, handing Nico Rosberg (and several opponents) track position into the first corner. Rosberg was untroubled in his run to the flag, and Hamilton easily dispensed with Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas until strategy got him past the Ferraris and into P2.

Heading to Singapore after the "European Season", Rosberg has closed the gap to just 2 points arresting momentum from Hamilton at the stage of the season that has traditionally been his strongest. 

In a race devoid of highlights Daniel Ricciardo pulled off the overtake of the season, wrestling the adjective "Verstappen-esque" back from his teammate to take Bottas into turn 1 under breaking. 

The passionate Italian crowd voiced their displeasure at seeing the Mercedes drivers on top of the podium, but the sight of Vettel on the third step gave them someone to cheer about. Red Bull still seem to have an advantage over Ferrari, which will be tested heading into the high-downforce tracks.

"I am Bottas"

I love this story from Finnish newspaper Iltahleti about Williams F1 driver Valtteri Bottas competing in a long distance running event under a false name. Before you read on.... just consider what name you would invent for Valtteri and recognise that with such power comes great responsibility.

The report said an entrant called 'Valto Pikkarainen' finished the 10 kilometre race with a competitive time of 38 minutes and 54 seconds.
So as the secret now emerges, the Williams driver explained why he chose to enter with a false name.
"Just so there would be no journalists there. And there weren't!" said Bottas.

Firstly, that's a decent time, especially considering that he was wearing Groucho Marx glasses (in my mind at least). Secondly, can we really be sure that Bottas isn't actually Valto Pikkarainen racing under an assumed identity? Oooooooo. The Matrix.