Bottas 2019 – Nobody’s Wingman
By Drew F. April 27 2019
Mercedes’ grip on the Formula One title has strengthened, and we are only three races into the 2019 season. Just when you think life couldn’t get any better for Mercedes and worse for everyone else, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have shown the world just why they are the premier team in Formula One.
With three races complete this season, Hamilton and Bottas have finished one and two in each grand prix. The Finnish driver took home victory to start the season in Melbourne with Hamilton winning both subsequent races in Bahrain and China.
Hamilton has won four of the last five Formula One World Championships. His place atop this year’s standings was expected, but Bottas’ podium finishes weren’t anticipated. The Mercedes No. 2 is second in the standings going into race four at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
A mere six points separate the Mercedes duo. Formula One fans who have been clamoring for a close title fight this season may get it. However, it may be contested by teammates Hamilton and Bottas. If it is tight down the stretch, Mercedes may have a fire to put out between its drivers. Of course, that decision won’t have to be made until the end of the summer, and one of the two drivers could fall off the pace by then.
Resurgence in 2019
Bottas’ win in Australia put the world on notice that he’s nobody’s wingman. His win down under came 12 months after an eighth-place finish in Melbourne. It was a poor start to the 2018 season that looked to have rebounded in Bahrain and China. However, Bottas fell short with some subpar qualifying sessions and what seemed like an unfair share of bad luck. The most notorious event was his unfortunate tire puncture close to the end of the race at Baku when he appeared to be sure to win the race.
To make matters worse, he had to give up another sure victory in Russia as Mercedes asked him to allow his teammate to overtake him in a bid to make it more difficult for Sebastian Vettel to challenge Hamilton for the driver’s championship. The season ended without a win for Bottas, but he did manage eight podiums. Bottas’ last four races of the year ended with a fifth-place finish in each. He was clearly dejected at the end of the season and appeared to be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid a similar occurrence the following year.
Bottas started the 2019 pre-season looking like a rejuvenated person and appeared to be determined to have a better season. If anybody had any doubt about his resolve, that must have vanished quickly as he started the season with a very commanding victory in Melbourne.
Can the podium finishes continue?
According to those on the inside of Mercedes, Bottas has come back in 2019 as a much stronger, edgy driver. It was claimed Bottas lacked mental fortitude and was too soft to be a top Formula One driver. His calm demeanor helped to create that stereotype, and when he won in Australia, Bottas shocked many when he stated over the radio: “To whom it may concern… F*** you.”
When push comes to shove this season, will Bottas back down and let Hamilton take victory? If he stays consistent, Mercedes will likely allow him to compete for the championship.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be interesting for two reasons. Firstly, Bottas’s driving form has been brilliant after three races, but the question is whether he can continue the consistency he has shown. With Formula One pundits raving about his driving and pondering if Bottas has a chance at a first-ever title, the pressure could smother him. Secondly, if Bottas wins, will a strain be put on the relationship of the Mercedes drivers?
Can he win in Baku?
Bottas has never won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix which is a relatively new addition to the formula 1 calendar. The Finnish driver finished second in 2017. His DNF in last year’s race underscored his “season of bad luck”.
Can Bottas win this year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix? The simple answer is yes. If he can continue his form, he can undoubtedly get his first win in Baku. A Formula One title could go his way too, but he needs consistency and better luck.