Valtteri Bottas will leave the Mercedes team after the 2021 season sharing a wild statistic with Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Stirling Moss, and Juan Manuel Fangio. They are the only five drivers in history to have won a Grand Prix in a Mercedes. He can hang his hat on that, for sure. In five seasons with the Mercedes team he has managed to bring home nine race victories. It’s quite clear that he’s nowhere near Hamilton’s equal in the same car, but he’s been an alright-but-not-great number-two for the team. On Monday it was announced that he’d be exiting the three-pointed-star to drive the Alfa Romeo vacated by Kimi-Matias Räikkönen.
Next season Bottas will be celebrating his first decade driving Formula One cars, as he was first signed as a test driver for Williams in 2012. He and Williams performed quite poorly in the tail end of the V8 era, but kicked off 2014 with a solid chassis and incredible Mercedes powertrains. As Williams gradually got worse again in 2015 and 2016, Mercedes signed the Finn to replace an abruptly retired Nico Rosberg for the 2017 season.
Obviously it takes quite a lot of drive talent to make it into F1, but Bottas has never been a championship-caliber driver, and sadly never will be. After middling performances in at least half of his races, notably shown by his inability to meaningfully hold up Max Verstappen, or stay in touch with the leaders, during Sunday’s Dutch Grand Prix, it’s time for him to go be a big fish in a smaller pond. The Alfa Romeo team is currently sitting on three points this season, only bettered in their worseness by the Haas team.
It is interesting that Bottas said he was only interested in a multi-year deal with another team, and that his effort with the Alfa Romeo team will be more than one year. Alfa Romeo doesn’t even have a multi-year deal with the Sauber team to stay in F1. Alfa and Stellantis have already said the effort will stay together on a year-by-year basis. There is nothing saying the team won’t pull out at the end of 2022 and Bottas will be left holding the bag. I was actually hoping he would move to Williams.
With this move to Alfa, the door is open for Mercedes protégé Nyck de Vries to take the Williams seat vacated by George Russell. The worst kept secret in F1 is that Russell will be moving to Mercedes to team with Lewis Hamilton for 2022, creating what may be the F1 dream team. Once that is official, the only question mark left on the grid with any consequence is who might team with Sebastian Vettel at the Aston Martin team, and it’s pretty likely the team will continue to retain Stroll, despite my wish that he fuck off to IndyCar or something.
Anyway, it’s the beginning of the end for Bottas. Will he still be in F1 in three years time? I’m not prepared to place any wagers on it.