When Nico Rosberg retired right after winning the 2016 Formula One title, his Mercedes F1 team was left with a seat to fill—fast. So, they plucked Valtteri Bottas from Williams and signed him for a year. It made sense, given that it was a quick decision on a driver who hadn’t proven himself in the Mercedes car yet. But they did it again. Yes, again.
Bottas has had 13 races in the car, won two of them and been on the podium in nine. Mercedes announced the contract as a “new deal ... for the 2018 Formula 1 season,” which makes it pretty obvious that it’s only good through next year. Team boss Toto Wolff called a contract with Bottas for at least one more year a “no brainer” in July, but wanted to look at the opportunities in 2019 and 2020.
After all, Mercedes and Ferrari are by far the top teams in F1. Both can have anyone they want, almost.
Here’s what Wolff said about Bottas in the announcement:
“We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year: joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his team-mate. With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive.
“There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russian and Austria. ...
“For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”
“The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis” roughly translates from F1 boss speak to English as “Valtteri is willing to take team orders and move over when Lewis needs the points.”
But, hey, Bottas is happy with the extension. He said in the announcement that the team “took a leap of faith” by putting him in the car this year, and that the “sky is the limit” next season.
Hopefully the team’s stopped calling him Nico by now, too.