Mercedes recruit Valtteri Bottas candidly said “I have not achieved anything in Formula One yet” upon his confirmation as Nico Rosberg's replacement. And the Finn is likely to get only one shot to convince the German manufacturer he is the real deal, as Nicolas Carpentiers explains.
A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD?
Ever since he made his Formula 1 debut with Williams in 2013, Valtteri Bottas has always had the edge on his team-mate. Granted, there were only two but both – Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa – had grand prix-winning experience with the Brazilian nearly crowned champion in 2008. Will the trend continue this year?
It certainly is a tall order and would quite surprising to be honest. Coming to a new team less than 70 days before the F1 season gets under way is the not best position to be in and Bottas moved quickly to acknowledge it.
“I have to admit it’s not an easy start to the season, changing teams in January with the new rules coming as well,” the Finn said. “There are so many things for me to learn, about the new car, about how the team works, but I’m ready for that.”
In the age of cutting-edge simulation tools and facilities, a driver still needs some time to absorb new methods and processess, gel with his race engineer, or learn a different interface on the steering wheel. That said, Bottas is very familiar with the Mercedes power unit, having raced it at Williams over the past three years.
“We know that we are already behind the curve in terms of preparations for the new season, so we've got a busy programme to get him integrated into the team,” Toto Wolff said. “One thing is for sure: as I know Valtteri, he will give it everything."
Bottas might be a former protégé of the Mercedes motorsport boss – Wolff stepped down from his role as part of the Finn’s management to avoid any conflict of interest – Lewis Hamilton has been at Brackley for four years and won two Drivers’ championships for the German constructor. This is very much his team and the latter cannot really afford to let the Briton go, even more so after Rosberg’s stunning exit from the sport.
Hamilton will be the benchmark for Mercedes engineers in terms of feedback and car development. Bottas will step into a Silver Arrow that should be still very competitive, but he will have to deal with a top-notch racer, whose political acumen is nearly as sharp as his skills at the wheel.
At any rate, the now ex-Williams driver will get the opportunity to prove his worth and alleviate any lingering doubts regarding his ultimate potential. After all, Bottas did not quite dominate the always rapid Massa as comprehensively as Fernando Alonso did.