Valtteri Bottas finds himself in the enviable position of driving for the team who have dominated Formula One for the last three years.
In replacing world champion Nico Rosberg, Bottas will be facing up against one of the most mercurial talents of his generation, Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton’s desire to regain the world championship, which he lost in 2016, will be near insatiable.
Bottas is probably the most highly-rated driver of any of those who were available to Mercedes. Having scored nine podiums for Williams in the hybrid era of Formula One, including finishing 4th and 5th in the World Championship in 2014 and 2015, Bottas is certainly a quick driver.
“For Mercedes, choosing Bottas is a calculated decision. He may not be as naturally fast as Hamilton, but he will certainly score points, and challenge at the front more often than not.”
Mercedes have opted for someone about as close to Nico Rosberg as they could have hoped for. Bottas is a consistent performer, and one who out-drove Felipe Massa at Williams for much of the last two years.
He also doesn’t seem like the type who will be ruffling feathers in the way Lewis Hamilton often does, and is the cold, calculating character Mercedes undoubtedly prefer to someone in the shape of Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel.
Alonso, Vettel, and Daniel Ricciardo sit with Hamilton in the top bracket of drivers, and as such they are all under contract until 2018. Bottas was the best available, considering that Williams use Mercedes engines. Pascal Weirlein, Mercedes’ next in line, was deemed too new to be thrown in against Lewis Hamilton, arguably the hardest challenge in F1.
For Mercedes, choosing Bottas is a calculated decision. He may not be as naturally fast as Hamilton, but he will certainly score points, and challenge at the front more often than not. If it does not work out this year, too, and Mercedes wanted to go with a driver in that world-class bracket, they could probably tempt at least one of them away (Fernando Alonso being the obvious candidate).
With the new rules and regulations aimed at making cars nearly 5 seconds a lap faster coming into force this season, and allowing drivers to push for much longer in races, the new season is an exciting time. It is not certain whether Mercedes will continue to dominate the sport as they have done previously, but having the best engine package will probably set them apart, especially in the first few races.
Which brings us nicely on to Lewis Hamilton. In my eyes, Hamilton losing the title last year can be positioned almost solely on his engine failure from the lead in Malaysia, which turned a championship lead into an insurmountable deficit. Had it not been for that, Hamilton would be celebrating his 4th world title, and I daresay Nico Rosberg would have given it one more shot with the new regulations.
“Rosberg drove the season of his life and still required some form of mechanical provenance to help him win the title.”
As it is, Hamilton is the outright favourite in most bookmakers’ eyes to land his 4th world title, and equal Sebastian Vettel’s total. His desire to be the best will spur him on as much as losing last year will; high maintenance he may be, but he is probably the most exciting Formula One driver of his generation.
Bottas will have to drive a supreme season to match Hamilton, and he knows that. Rosberg drove the season of his life and still required some form of mechanical provenance to help him win the title.
On the Liberty Media Takeover
With Liberty Media’s takeover of F1 into its final phases, it appears that a new era of Formula One may be set to dawn. The two burning issues that must be addressed by the new leadership are the system of financing that is skewed towards the biggest teams, and the jettisoning of the traditional European races.
Manor’s descent into administration is merely another act in the issue of funding. Most teams in the bottom half of the constructors table work on a shoe-string budget compared to Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
“With so many changes apparent for the new season aimed at increasing excitement in the sport once more, the traditions that make it so appealing must be protected.”
Levelling the playing field, and giving more equal funding to all teams will surely make F1 more exciting, and mean that teams like Manor and Sauber are not fighting for survival every winter.
In terms of the European heartland of F1, there will be no German GP this year, and even Silverstone is threatening to quit the sport from 2019, due to the rising cost of hosting an F1 race. There is still no French GP for 2017 either.
Liberty must do more to protect the historic races, with Italy being another prominent example (Monaco too, but that’s not going anywhere). With so many changes apparent for the new season aimed at increasing excitement in the sport once more, the traditions that make it so appealing must be protected.
Here’s hoping Liberty can shake things up.
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