Valtteri Bottas in profile | The Mercedes driver in his teammates' shadow

11-05-2021 09:30
Valtteri Bottas in profile | The Mercedes driver in his teammates' shadow

Yesterday, we took a look at seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, but today we look at how his Mercedes partner Valtteri Bottas found his way to the top of Formula One. The Finnish driver has been at the peak of the sport for the last few years, yet he has always been in the shadow of his British teammate.

In the second article of our new series profiling all current F1 and F2 drivers, it was Bottas’ turn to follow Hamilton, once again. The 31-year-old has been a star and household name since arriving in Formula 1 in 2013 but hasn’t had the best of luck driving alongside one of the greatest drivers of all time.

He is yet to win a World Championship and join Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen as the fourth Finnish driver to stand atop of the podium at the end of a season. However, when you’ve been driving against as dominant a force as Hamilton for all of your Championship contending career, it’s understandable.

Nevertheless, Bottas’ career is not one to play down. Nine career wins to his name, 59 podiums (and counting) and only two seasons finishing outside the top five in the Drivers’ standings is a resume that any driver would happily grasp on to.

But how did his career start?

Bottas started on the karting scene in 2001 at the age of 12 and saw great success in European and Finnish competitions in his five-year tenure. On the other hand, his two appearances in the World Karting Championship never planned out the way he would have intended.

An eighth-place finish in 2005, followed by a DNF the next year, was the best the young Finn could do on the World stage. However, the dominance in Europe and Finland, from years past, put Bottas in strong suit compared to those around him.

Six victories, a second-place and a third-place in Karting secured Bottas a seat driving in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC series and also the Formula Renault UK Winter Series. This would be his single-seater debut and would turn out to be a season to remember, both fondly and not.

He claimed three victories in the Winter Series from four races and was on his way to win the title, but wasn’t holding the required registered license for the championship so couldn’t be named as the victor. This didn’t stop his success in the NEC series as Bottas fought to finish third overall, whilst claiming two victories and six podiums.

The next year Bottas bettered his previous, as he claimed first place in both the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0. In the latter, he had a tight battle throughout the whole season with, fellow F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo. He edged the Australian by only three points, despite winning one less race during the season.

Making the switch to drive for ART was the next decision for Bottas and it’s one that paid off. The next two seasons paid heavy tolls on his trophy cabinet as two consecutive third-place finishes in the Formula 3 Euro Series and two consecutive victories in the Masters of Formula 3 race were claimed by the Finn.

A final season in the GP3 series, now known as Formula 3, was the last step for Bottas before making the major step up to F1. He had been the test driver for Williams for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons, making 15 Friday free practise session appearances. Four victories and seven podiums were enough to propel the Finn to the top of the GP3 Drivers’ Championship and secure the step-up to Formula One.

Bottas’ Formula 1 career:

Pairing up with Pastor Maldonado was Bottas’ first point of call on the main stage and the Flying Finn was unable to make the impression many hoped he would. He could only muster four points in the 19 races in the 2013 season, with all coming from an eighth-place finish in the USA Grand Prix. However, the changes in 2014 saw the new power hybrid unit era get entered, which resulted in Bottas and Williams being helped majorly.

The next three seasons driving for Williams saw podium success come Bottas’ way but he was not able to claim victory for the British team on any occasion. Six podiums in 2014, were followed by two in 2015 and only one in 2016, but this didn’t hamper his success in the Drivers’ Championship battle. 

The best he achieved for Williams was fourth overall in 2014, behind only Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Ricciardo. This was then followed by a fifth overall finish in 2015 before he claimed eighth in his final season with the team. Despite not winning a single race in his four seasons at Williams, Bottas was the first point of call to fill Rosberg’s vacant Championship winning seat at Mercedes due to the sheer amount of points he scored in his dominant three seasons prior.

His first win came on his fourth race for the German team at the 2017 Russian Grand Prix. Prior to this, Bottas claimed two podiums and battled back to sixth-place in a gruelling Chinese Grand Prix. Two more victories followed suit for the Finn that season, one in Austria and the final coming in the season finale in Abu Dhabi, securing a third overall place in the Drivers’ Championship for Bottas in his debut season in the Mercedes. 

His best season to date in F1 came in 2019 when he finished 87 points behind his teammate Hamilton and second in the Drivers’ Championship. Three victories and 11 podium places, proved Bottas’ worth in the Mercedes that season, as he combined with Hamilton to secure Mercedes the Constructors’ Championship very easily.

However, he has recently come under a large amount of scrutiny due to the pressure he is receiving from George Russell for a seat in Mercedes next season. The two battled it out in the Sakhir Grand Prix last season when Russell filled in for Hamilton, and it was safe to say that Bottas got outperformed by the young Brit, who lead from the front for the majority of the race.

It is still up in the air as to what will happen next season to Valtteri Bottas, but it is very easy to know that the Flying Finn will still be in a seat somewhere next year. A points-scoring machine is one way to describe him, but will he ever be a World Champion when Lewis Hamilton is still in the sport? Or could George Russell take Hamilton’s reigns and force Bottas out? Who knows.

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