COLUMN | Is Valtteri Bottas the reason Mercedes are behind Red Bull this season?

18-06-2021 10:00
COLUMN | Is Valtteri Bottas the reason Mercedes are behind Red Bull this season?

Mercedes dominance over the last decade in Formula 1 could be heading towards an end, for this year at least. The start to this season has seen Red Bull finally contend with the German team for the F1 2021 Championships, most notably with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas missing out on points in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. That was the first time since 2012 that both Mercedes drivers have missed out on scoring points in a race weekend.

Hamilton currently sits four points behind Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Standings and Red Bull have a 26-point advantage over Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, following Sergio Perez’s victory last weekend. However, Bottas’ season couldn’t have started any worse. The Finn has been nowhere near the standard of his seven-time World Champion teammate and has come under major fire for this, but has still managed to finish third and claim a podium place in half of the races this season.

This has then resulted in major rumours surrounding Bottas’ future at Mercedes and who could replace him next season, one, and the favourite, being George Russell.

But is Bottas really the main reason for Mercedes lacklustre start to the season? Or have Red Bull managed to finally find a Championship contending car?

Bottas’ potential departure, but who could we see in his seat?

As the majority of F1 fans would’ve seen, Bottas’ Mercedes stay seems to be coming to an end. A large number of rumours have been flying around the paddock and the world on what Mercedes will do next season when it comes to its driver lineup.

The rumour on everyone's minds is the clear choice for Mercedes. Replace Valtteri Bottas with George Russell. In my opinion, it is a no brainer. I feel like Russell needs to move on from Williams for him to fully develop into a Championship contender and after his performance in Sakhir last year, which should have potentially seen him become a race winner, his wait for a seat at his home team may finally be over.

Another name that was flying around the rumour mill was Esteban Ocon’s, however after he resigned with Alpine on a three-year deal the door has been left wide open for Russell to make the switch. If Russell did make the move over, what would happen to Bottas? The current idea will be a Williams-or-nothing switch for the Finn. However, these are all rumours at the moments of course and nothing is anywhere near being set-in-stone it seems… yet.

Would Russell coming in and Bottas coming out improve Mercedes chances of winning a Championship next year? That is something that can be answered both ways. Russell will no doubt be the future of Mercedes so getting him in their car as soon as possible has to be on their to-do list. The showing in Sakhir as prior mentioned only boasts good possibilities for the young Brit as he didn’t make a mistake during the race, it all came from a team error and unluckiness in the race itself. However, Russell may need some adjustment time whereas Bottas already knows the W12 well and will be able to continue without major change, but with his form so far this season, it seems like it will lead towards Russell being at Mercedes next season, in my opinion at least.

Can Mercedes stop their struggles?

Although only being behind Red Bull and Verstappen in both F1 Championships, many have stated that Mercedes are struggling to get the results needed to compete with their Austrian rivals. In my opinion, this is true to an extent. The only real failures we’ve seen from them have been in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the event in Monaco which saw Bottas have to retire, which wasn’t exactly the team's fault compared to other issues.

Hamilton has won three races this season and claimed second place in Imola, whilst Bottas has been on the podium in half of the races this season, which still emphasises Mercedes strength this season. On the other hand, neither featured on the podium in the street circuits of Monaco and Baku, with the team only scoring seven points in these two races, due to Hamilton finishing seventh and claiming the fastest lap in the Principality.

Although these two races really highlighted the worst possible race for Mercedes, they didn’t lose out on much. Hamilton lost his lead in the Drivers’ Championship to Verstappen when he took victory in Monaco and then the Constructors’ Championship lead for Red Bull was extended by Sergio Perez winning in Baku but that was all. There is no doubt that, in certain Grand Prix’s this season, Mercedes will be able to score more points than Red Bull. However, this will come down to the team’s second driver more than anything.

Currently, Perez sits in third place on 69 points, behind his teammate Verstappen and Hamilton. Lando Norris of McLaren is in fourth, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari is in fifth and then Bottas sits in sixth on 47 points. The consistency of Perez has been the key factor in giving Red Bull the overall lead in the Constructors Championship. Bottas has three DNF’s this season but also three podiums, whereas Perez only has a race win, four top-five finishes and only one non-points scoring race finish.

If Perez can continue or even improve upon the start he has had this season, then it will be very hard for Mercedes to hold on with the Hamilton vs Verstappen battle at the front of the grid. It will all come down to what Bottas can achieve in the next couple of races, which could determine the way the season ends for Mercedes but also the Finn’s future at the team.

Do you think we will see Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes next season? Or can a change in attitude from the Finn help Mercedes conquer Formula 1, once again, this season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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