Does Valtteri Bottas (31) threaten to be kicked out of Mercedes this season? After his third place and the worse performance at the Formula 1 GP Portugal compared to world champion Lewis Hamilton (36), the Finn is under pressure.
As the British Daily Mail writes, there is “a certain amount of unrest over Valtteri” in the Mercedes factory in Brackley. At least that’s how the English tabloid quotes an engineer. He does not want to be named, but continues: “He is not up to date, which was made even clearer by the job that Russell did in Bahrain (2020 as a replacement for Hamilton; d. Ed.).”
The fact is: it is seething behind the scenes. And that for a long time. The problem: Bottas can’t keep up with Hamilton. In Portugal he was overtaken by the seven-time world champion, despite being on pole in the race. And otherwise, his balance sheet is sobering.
The numbers show: In 2017 Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg, who hung up his helmet after winning the world title. The German no longer wanted to do the duel with full guest Hamilton. Bottas, who until then had been managed by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, was then given preference over Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein. Since then, he has raced for four full seasons in the dominant Mercedes, but has only won nine times. For comparison: Hamilton was at the top of the podium 44 times in the same period. While the Briton won the title without interruption from 2017 to 2020, the Finn reached the World Cup ranks three, five, two and two. That is not enough in the superior Silver Arrow.
Even more: in 2021 Bottas will have more difficulties than Hamilton with the hard-to-drive Mercedes. In Bahrain and Portugal he finished third behind Max Verstappen (Red Bull). In Imola’s qualifying, he did not make it past eighth place, and then collided with George Russell (Williams) in the race for ninth place.
Spicy: The very same George Russell is now considered the first contender for Bottas’ Mercedes cockpit. The young Briton is also a Mercedes junior and impressed with his commitment to Mercedes in Sakhir 2020, when Lewis Hamilton had to take a break due to a corona infection. Russell immediately drove at eye level with Bottas and would have won the race if the team and technology hadn’t let him down twice. A Watsch’n for Bottas, which was followed by discussions about a cockpit swap even then.
But team boss Wolff is still behind the Finn and verbally jumped to his side even after the accident in Imola. He said: “We have to build Valtteri now because we need him in the World Cup fight against Red Bull.” There Max Verstappen can count on the support of the experienced Sergio Perez this year.
Statistics speaks against Bottas
That is why Sky expert Ralf Schumacher is not convinced of the change theory. “There is no point in exchanging Valtteri during the season,” the ex-F1 star told ABMS. “Of course Bottas is not as strong as Hamilton, there are few. But compared to Imola, he has clearly improved in Portugal and also fought out of the low. After all, he was on pole there.”
The brother of record world champion Michael Schumacher points out: “It is still far too early in the season to draw such conclusions. In addition, a swap brings more unrest to the team than it helps. Because Hamilton would also get over you Russell as a team-mate probably not happy. “
Reason: Russell is considered the new British racing star, a potential superstar of the post-Hamilton era. He would fuel the team-internal duel, as once a Nico Rosberg had done. Toto Wolff faces a difficult decision. And that can only mean: Doing everything for Hamilton so that he feels the necessary support from the team in the tough World Cup duel with Red Bull and Max Verstappen. Having a young upstart like Russell as a teammate this year could be a contradiction in terms …