#360view: Bottas could further strengthen Mercedes’ grip on F1

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Bottas likely to compliment Hamilton rather than clash with him

When a team is so far ahead of the competition in talent, structure, skills, organisation, leadership and resources, it leaves rivals searching for the only possible weakness they can exploit: the inconsistency and irrationality of human beings.

It’s why Diego Costa’s situation at Chelsea is being monitored so keenly; should the unsettled striker leave the club over the next two weeks, it creates a previously unaccounted for opening for the rest of the Premier League.

It’s why the NBA’s other 29 teams were hoping the introduction of Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors would somehow disrupt dressing room harmony or that Draymond Green’s disciplinary issues will flare up again.

And why, for the last three seasons, the rest of the Formula One grid have been secretly hoping Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s personalities clashed to such an extent they would essentially defeat each other.

A glimmer of hope, a shred of optimism.

At times the Rosberg-Hamilton rivalry threatened to undo the team’s dominance, leading executive Toto Wolff to act as much as a mediator as he is manager. But with Rosberg’s retirement on the back of his maiden world title won in Abu Dhabi, it immediately thawed any frosty chemistry that may have existed between the Mercedes drivers, Wolff, chairman Niki Lauda and the team at large.

It also, of course, presented somewhat of a quandary for Wolff as to who and what comes next. In the blue corner, Valtteri Bottas – a cool and calm proven points-scorer whose consistency for Williams (six retirements over his 77 race starts) may not catch the eye but is certainly impressive.

And in the red corner, Pascal Wehrlein – the 22-year-old German, described as Rosberg’s natural heir in F1, and who has led Manor racing director Dave Ryan to deny accusations of arrogance from his fellow drivers.

Bottas a stoic and safe pair of hands; Wehrlein the firebrand who carries a risk. After the saga of Hamilton and Rosberg, there was only going to be one winner.

The Mercedes boss admitted as much on Monday at the team headquarters in Brackley, stating the Finn is “a no-nonsense guy, down to earth, straightforward and very focused”.

Bottas and his boss insist he will be racing on level terms with Hamilton, and that may come to pass to an extent, but everything about the Finn screams ‘team player’. Those who have dealt with the softly-spoken 27-year-old describe him as professional, pragmatic… a nice guy.

Of the precious few disputes he’s had with fellow drivers – Kimi Raikkonen in 2015 and Max Verstappen last season – on each occasion he’s emerged more Gandhi than Genghis Khan. Indeed, if Hamilton somehow manages to antagonise Bottas it will, for all the Brit’s race wins and titles, be some achievement.

Which is why Bottas’ appointment is terrible news for the rest of the grid. Hamilton now has a perfect deputy, who will race with selflessness, never challenge team direction and do whatever benefits Mercedes the most.

It’s unclear how rule changes will impact the potency of Mercedes, but as a result of an unexpected turn of events emanating from the unpredictability of the human mind, Wolff has impressively managed to eradicate Mercedes’ only glaring weakness by signing arguably the most consistent and rational driver in F1.

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