After yet another Mercedes team order for Bottas to aid his teammate and this time, sacrificing a race win, I’m speculating whether ‘the Bottas effect’ is a negative one.
It’s a shame that the current state of F1 is that team orders are allowed, dictating the outcome of races and paid drivers get seats over up and coming talent, but are these the biggest issues?
I want to start by saying that these factors are not new to the sport by any means. I’m sure a lot of you will say, ‘but Ferrari have always done the same!’ – you’re absolutley right of course, but we live in a time where more and more information is available every day and these things are now out in the open.
So, why am I saying that drivers like Bottas are bad for the sport? Let me take you back to his days at Williams, he was a new driver showing potential, scoring strong points and not being afraid to challenge his older, more seasoned teammate. Great, we thought, someone to watch for the future!
Fast forward to January 2017 and the Finn was announced as the replacement for the fiery Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. He openly came out and stated he would not be a #2 driver, he was there to win championships – personally this excited me, could we see another inter-team fight for the WDC? Well, in a word, no.
During a shaky first season with mixed results, Bottas found his feet with the defending world champions, finishing 3rd in the table and scoring a few wins. He had aided his teammate on a few occasions, fine, it’s his first year there I thought, but 2018 would be the time when he would look to make his mark, you would think.
So far we’ve seen quite a few times the driver has been asked to either hold position or even yield to Hamilton, which I completely understand as a team, they have to support their title contender and ensure victory. So what’s the problem? Team orders are allowed, why not do it?
My problem is with the fact that Bottas has aimed for the top, made it to the ‘best’ team on the grid, fully prepared to fight for a championship, only to them concede any time he has been asked. What is the point in driving the fastest car if you’re not allowed to overtake your teammate, the person who you are not only measured first against, but also your championship rival?
I understand that for us regular folks, we’d swap places with Bottas in an instant, just to have the life he has, travelling the world, driving fast cars etc, but for a racer, surely it must kill him to not be able to try and win where he wants to?
If it doesn’t, that saddens me even moreso, if he’s OK with always being second fiddle, then why be in the sport at all? He’s taking up a seat that someone with real passion could use – although the question is, would Mercedes want another fighter? Probably not after their Rosberg/Hamilton situation.
So that suggests to me that he is just a placeholder for Ocon, who will lead the team once Hamilton wins and eventually retires.
Of course I’m blaming all of this on Bottas, but he’s sort of a symbol for one of the aspects of F1 that quite frankly stinks. We’ve had the same from other drivers before, and will again, but it with recent events, it seemed fitting to talk about him.
Paying your way
Many of you will shout ‘paid drivers! Lance Stroll!’ and yes you’re right, they’re also part of the problem, but if we’re playing devils advocate, Stroll has funded one of the biggest names in F1 through their financial woes (Williams), and helped keep another promising team (Force India) afloat.
What has Bottas done? He doesn’t come with any huge funding, but is in a seat he will never be able to fully utilise. It seems like an awful waste from a fan/spectator point of view.
Despite my musings above, we must understand that F1 is an advertisment for Mercedes’ road cars, therefore to the team, the constructors championship is by far the most important aspect, but clearly they want to ‘do the double’ and win the WDC. However, it doesn’t seem that they wish to just let any of their drivers win it, the victor is already decided.
I am hoping that with the young blood coming through into the sport, especially into the bigger teams, we might see a reduction in this kind of politics. I can’t see Leclerc bending to Vettel’s will, for example – of course, I could be wrong.
Let’s hope for a brighter future for the sport and closer, more intense battles between teammates – soon!