The BIG Question | Is Valtteri Bottas underrated?

12-11-2020 12:00
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The BIG Question | Is Valtteri Bottas underrated?

Who would want the seat next to the six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton? Very few drivers would be able to challenge the Brit. Just think of Nico Rosberg. When the German beat Hamilton to the title in 2016 it took so much out of him that he had to retire! 

So is Bottas underrated? He receives a lot of criticism and seems to relentlessly be on the losing side of the battle against his teammate but he isn’t that far off the pace and is also excelling at the job he is paid to do which is to be number two.

Compared to Hamilton, most drivers on the grid would look slow so perhaps the Finn isn’t doing as badly as some would suggest. Lewis is on track to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of championship wins. He’s no slow driver and neither is Bottas. 

Practice sessions and Qualifying 

It’s been said that if there was a championship for free practice sessions then Bottas would win it hands down. Each time the Formula 1 circus arrives at a new track, he is always the first driver to get to grips with the circuit and this is a real skill that shows his level of driving ability. The Finn has topped FP1 seven times this season, eight if you count the only practice session held in Germany when FP1 was cancelled due to rain. This is more than any other driver by quite some margin and shows that he is extremely good in a Formula 1 car. 

Bottas often takes his impressive performances in practice into qualifying and has started on pole four times this season. Although four is not as impressive as Hamilton’s nine, he is only ever a few tenths behind the Brit at most. Often he’ll complete what many would call a perfect lap, going purple in all three sectors, and then has to hear over the team radio that his teammate has pipped him by a fraction of a second. 

Mercedes have the closest average qualifying gap throughout the whole grid and one of the drivers in the team is close to being the greatest of all time. Bottas is not slow and if anyone else was in the seat next to him, he’d be the one with World Championships next to his name.  

Shorter race weekends?

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix experimented with a shorter Grand Prix format with only one practice session instead of three. We’ve just looked at how Bottas is often the first driver to get up to speed at a circuit so he will be hoping and praying that Formula 1 does adopt this new format for more Grand Prix in the future. 

With less practice time, Bottas was able to use his skill at getting to grips with the track quickly to his advantage and went into qualifying with a lot more confidence compared to the rest of the field and was able to take pole. 

Although this didn’t convert into a race win this time around, it was clear to see how much more exciting it made both the race and qualifying and the Finn will be hoping it’s something that is adopted for next season and use it to his advantage.  

Number two 

It’s worth remembering that Valtteri is paid big bucks to be a number two driver, a role that he is the best in the world at. Just look at Red Bull. They have proven how hard it is to get two drivers performing consistently at each Grand Prix. There is no doubt that Mercedes are happy with the set up that they have and there is no need for them to push Bottas into wanting race wins or championship success. 

Many fans are critical of Bottas and it’s clear to see why. The Finn is the only driver on the grid who can make a challenge for the title each season and so far he has failed to deliver that spectacle. Fans have been starved of a genuine title race since Rosberg was in the sport and many are blaming Bottas for this. That’s unfair. Blame Mercedes. 

At the moment, finishing second behind Hamilton would be celebrated more by the team than Bottas pushing Hamilton for a race win. That must be a strange environment for a driver to try and excel in. 

Bottas is no slouch. He’s fast in practice and qualifying and although he doesn’t necessarily have the racecraft of some of the other drivers on the grid, he does have the skills required to deserve his seat. 

He just needs to show a bit of aggression and fight during the races. Prove everyone wrong and really take the fight to Hamilton, showing a bit of character. How good would it be if Bottas suddenly got fed up with playing second fiddle and gave Hamilton a run for his money? 

Bottas is a very fast driver when the pressure is off and over a single lap. What will convince the masses of his speed is if he improves his wheel to wheel battling which we all hope he will. Go on Valtteri. We need to to make the top of F1 competitive again.

@louis1999shaw

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