COMMENT: Bottas must be more than Hamilton's deputy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn

When Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were teammates at Mercedes, the drivers were handed a document titled ‘Rules of Engagement’.

Effectively, it was a list of dos and don’ts on the race track, and a response from the team’s hierarchy to deal with a few on-the-field incidents between the pair.

This year, the Mercedes document is effectively the same – team boss Toto Wolff said it was “copy and pasted, with added things and changed things” – but under a new title… ‘Racing Intent’.

Wolff, though, made clear in Bahrain the team’s intent, despite all their previous insistence to the contrary, is to select a clear No1 in Hamilton.

It came in just four words late in the race from Valtteri Bottas’ race engineer Tony Ross, who said simply over the team radio: “Please let Lewis go.”

In fact, Bottas was twice asked to pull over for Hamilton but, despite an initial protestation, the Finnish driver did the right thing for the team and yielded to his team-mate.

It was the right call, nay only call, for the team as Bottas was struggling with his tyres and had nowhere near the pace of Hamilton, the Briton Mercedes’ only realistic hope of catching Sebastian Vettel in a chase that at one time promised to be thrilling but eventually proved futile.

Wolff remains adamant that there is still not a one and two at Mercedes but it was clear, if that is not 100 per cent the case right now, it certainly will be soon, as much down to what Wolff did not say.

“We tried not to interfere as it’s an awful call to make,” he said. “Are you losing the race or making a call that’s not a nice one?”

Pushed on the situation between the two drivers under the charge and the reality that in such a tight tussle with Vettel they need to just pick one leader on the track, Wolff was clearly uneasy.

“I don’t even want to discuss it,” he added. “It’s not fair to Valtteri. It’s a very tough call. I don’t want to make it yet.”

How things can change in the space of 24 hours. After qualifying, many were talking about Bottas finally being able to take the fight to Hamilton after he parked his car on pole position with a lap that even had Hamilton cooing.

But the disparity between the drivers was still there in the body language of Hamilton as the qualifying top trio smiled for the cameras, Hamilton pointing at his team-mate and giving the thumbs-up while at the same time implying he did not entirely see him as a threat to his championship hopes.

Bottas’ awkward body language suggested he knew it too, even more so on the podium come the end of the race having seen his hopes of a first race win slip away.

In truth, no one knows what he might have been able to do had he not struggled with tyre pressure in that first stint, and was then further pegged back by issues with oversteer.

Despite a disappointing race he promised Mercedes that there is much more to come and he has clearly left no stone unturned in his bid to catch Hamilton.

That includes using the eye coach that helped guide the England rugby team to this season’s Six Nations Championship to eke out any potential advantage over his three-time world champion team-mate.

But if he cannot get closer to Hamilton and pose more of a title threat then the Finn will become no more than a stop-gap for another driver to come in to Mercedes in 2018.

For one, he has just a one-year contract to drive for the team plus there is no shortage of drivers queuing up to replace him – McLaren’s Fernando Alonso arguably being at the front of that queue after his third race retirement out of three in 2017.

Ironically, Bottas was once compared to a young Alonso as he set out on his Formula One career with Williams in 2012.

Having previously spun at the Chinese Grand Prix for which he was admonished by Mercedes but forgiven, Bottas was under great pressure in Bahrain but still had reassurance from the team that they had his back.

Unless he can drastically turn things round – a pole position was simply not enough – that support will waver more and more.

Most popular

F1 round-up: Vettel beats Hamilton in Bahrain GP thriller

Sport360 staff 16/04/2017

Sebastian Vettel moved into a clear lead in this year’s world championship on Sunday when he claimed a well-judged victory for Ferrari in the Bahrain Grand Prix for his second win of the season.

The 29-year-old four-time champion came home seven seconds ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who made a late charge for victory after collecting a five-seconds penalty for a pit-lane misdemeanour.

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third, after starting from his maiden pole position, ahead of compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and fifth-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

What did you make of the action?

Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.


Sebastian Vettel was instrumental, securing his second win of the season and taking an early advantage over Hamilton in the title race.

Although he was the first in the leading pack to hit the pit lane after lap 10, it proved a gamble worth taking as his super soft tyres allowed him to gain stronger pace over the Mercedes.


Lewis Hamilton may have fallen short after pushing Vettel in the closing stages of the race, however his lap of of 1:32.798 on 46 proved to be the fastest of the day.

Daniel Ricciardo’s 1:33.495 on lap 42 was the second-fastest, with Kimi Raikkonen’s 1:33.720 on 55 third fastest as he attempted to push Valtteri Bottas for a place on the podium.


After a bright start, Max Verstappen was forced to retire after lap 19 due to brake failure.

Although the mechanical issue was not his fault, it was disappointing to see the Red Bull driver withdraw when sitting in fourth and looking like he could potentially fight for a podium place if his pace continued.


It was another fantastic performance from Sergio Perez as he rose from P18 to finish in 7th place.

It’s now the Force India driver’s 13th consecutive race in the points stretching back to the German GP last July.

The Mexican was brilliant, overtaking the vastly experienced Fernando Alonso and Romain Grosjean to confirm his place in the points.

Sergio Perez.

Sergio Perez.

Most popular

IN PICS: Bottas storms to first career pole in Bahrain

Sport360 staff 15/04/2017

Valtteri Bottas claimed his first career pole position on Saturday when he beat his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton with a well-controlled lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old Finn, who joined the team as replacement for retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, made the most of a poor final lap by the Briton to claim the prime starting position for Sunday’s race.

Hamilton, who was seeking his seventh successive pole position and third in a row this season, gave his team-mate a generous hug after the session.

“We will only be celebrating for a short time tonight. The most important thing is to be ready for tomorrow’s race,” said Bottas.

Rosberg was amongst the first to congratulate the pole-sitter.

Three-time champion Hamilton, who shares the championship lead with Sebastian Vettel and who had been quickest until the final runs, was unable to find the extra speed he needed on his second run in Q3 to retain pole position.

“Big congratulations to Valtteri,” said Hamilton. “Today he was just quicker, hats off to him.”

Four-time world champion Vettel was third fastest for Ferrari, unable to make an impact on the two Mercedes men who took the front row. It was the sixth consecutive year in Bahrain that Mercedes won pole.

“Overall I was happy with how the car felt. The gap to Mercedes was bigger than I expected but we will fight tomorrow,” said Vettel.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo was fourth for Red Bull ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari, Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull and Nico Hulkenberg who qualified seventh for Renault.

Felipe Massa was eighth for Williams ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Haas and Briton Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault.

Most popular