Opinion: Valtteri Bottas needs to screw up the Mercedes contract to look elsewhere

16-06-2021 10:00
Opinion: Valtteri Bottas needs to screw up the Mercedes contract to look elsewhere

Valtteri Bottas’ contract negotiations with Mercedes and Toto Wolff must seem like Groundhog day. Year after year, the Finnish driver has been searching for an extension. Question marks are growing about whether Mercedes will opt for George Russell when in reality it is Bottas who needs to buck the trend, screw the contract up and look elsewhere. 

It’s an idea that’s difficult to compute and one that will initially fill Bottas with a sense of regret. Walking out of a door attached to the team who have won every single World Championship title the sport has to offer since 2014 aren’t going to be easy steps to make. 

The chances of Bottas becoming World Champion in the second Mercedes seat compared to becoming World Champion in an Aston Martin, Alpine or McLaren are equal. The reality is, no chance. And that’s not a reflection on his performances or ability. 

Unfairly compared 

In equal machinery, Lewis Hamilton is always going to have the upper hand. Arguably, only Max Verstappen has the serious potential to beat the seven-time World Champion over the course of a 23 race season, and we’re never going to see the Dutchman climb into a Mercedes. Certainly not anytime soon anyway. 

Bottas has been trying to live up to the expectations Hamilton creates in the Mercedes ever since he arrived at the team for the 2017 season. Nine wins, 17 poles and 50 podiums isn’t a bad return from 85 Grands Prix. He’s successfully completed his criteria, including four consecutive Constructors Championships. 

But the pressure clearly piles onto him. Signing just a one-year contract extension isn’t advantageous for the driver because you’re always fighting against it. By the time the ink gets to dry in the hot summer days, the Championship for Bottas is usually over. And when it starts again in March, he’s under pressure to ensure he gets another chance to scribble over the paper. 

Vicious circle

With the rules and regulation book getting a reprint in 2022, and at 31 years of age, it’s the almost perfect time for Bottas to escape the vicious circle at Mercedes on his own accord. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and had Bottas not signed the Mercedes deal so early in the 2020 season, he could well have thrown his name into the Red Bull ring for the second seat alongside Max Verstappen. His Mercedes knowledge being his key point of difference over Sergio Perez

But moving elsewhere remains a lucrative option with the uncertainty over who is going to come out of the 2022 changes best. Perhaps the second Red Bull seat remains ajar, but Perez now has a head start and is growing from strength to strength. 

Bottas may need to take a year sabbatical for a seat to free up. A team like Alpine could be the perfect destination once Fernando Alonso leaves. Or even a return to Williams might look like a decent move if Jost Capito can start to prove his vision is a reality. 

The reality: we’re never going to see an updated version of Bottas in the Mercedes team. To get a real reset and 3.0, or whatever version we’re running now, Bottas needs to buck the trend and press the eject button at Mercedes. 

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