Valtteri Bottas is many things; he’s reliable, consistent, someone Lewis Hamilton probably ‘accidentally’ calls Heikki more often than he should, an excellent Rubens Barrichello-type number two, and a Finn who looks proper fit in black. He is not, however, a championship-caliber Formula One driver, and after almost four years of having his ass handed to him by F1 G.O.A.T. and teammate Lewis Hamilton, he might finally be realizing it for himself.
The Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday saw Bottas drop from second on the grid to fourth as a bad start allowed both Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and Lance Stroll’s Racing Point past. Bottas had the speed to get back by Stroll for third, but even on newer soft tires he couldn’t close the gap to Max for second. Meanwhile, Hamilton dominated the race from the front, smashing the competition from lights out to checkered flag, leading the whole GP and lapping everyone up to third. Barcelona isn’t exactly a great track for passing, so it’s not an indictment of Bottas that he couldn’t make one happen. He’s still a great driver, but he’s not even close to the level that Hamilton is.
“Initial analysis is just a bad start,” says Bottas of his performance in Spain. “I think the initial getaway from the line was not quite good enough, and also my reaction time could have been a bit better, so it’s just not the perfect start when it was needed.
“And on this track if the guys behind get a tow from you and if you don’t get the tow and if your start is not better, you pay the price, so that’s it. Initially disappointed of course, it’s far from ideal.
With his failure to score any points during the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, a string of third place points hauls has pretty much counted Bottas out of championship contention unless Lewis has a particularly rough string of extremely bad luck. And even then, Bottas probably isn’t good enough to haul back the deficit to Verstappen either.
Bottas knows it’s bad. He’s watching his championship hopes ‘drifting away’.
“I have no clue actually what the points’ difference is, but it’s way too big. And I can see again the championship drifting away. So we’ll take a couple of days to look at everything, and see what went wrong. And again, move on.
“But obviously at this point, very disappointing, but yes, I know I’ll always bounce back, and no doubt in Spa, as always, I’ll be in full mental health, giving everything I have. But for now I just want to be somewhere else than here right now.”
That points difference currently has Lewis up front with 132 points, Max in second with 95 points, and Bottas sitting on 89 points. Bottas is currently grabbing an average of 15 points per Grand Prix, while Lewis’ average is 22 points. Hell, at this point Lewis could take a weekend off and still have the points lead in the championship. It’s not totally insurmountable, but I mean, c’mon.
“At this moment, I can’t say. I had a good start in the first race, and the pace all season, every single race, the pace has been there. Qualifying has been super close every single time with Lewis, sometimes he beats me, sometimes I beat him. It’s small margins.
“So I don’t know the reason for now. There were couple of shitty races for me in Silverstone, with bad luck. At this point it’s difficult to say. Maybe when time goes on I can say, for now I’ve no answer.
“Apart from the first race, it’s been pretty bad. There’s not been a weekend that has gone smoothly and without issue, apart from the first one, so a pretty bad season so far. Obviously, that’s disappointing.
“So yes, nice to have a break. Hopefully, we still have many more races to go, maybe even up to 10 or something like this. I would hope so. So far, far from ideal.”
Bottas has been with the Mercedes-AMG Patronas F1 team since the 2017 season, and in that time he has won a respectable eight Grands Prix. In that same timeframe Lewis has won thirty-five races in the same equipment. Their points split in the seasons between 2017 and now? Bottas sits on 967 points as a Mercedes F1 racer. Since the 2017 season started Lewis has scored 1,316 points.
Did Valtteri really think he had a chance at the championship in 2020? He knows who his teammate is, right?