Former Williams driver Valtteri Bottas and current AMG Mercedes F1 driver has said that his 2018 Formula 1 campaign has been his worst F1 season to date.
The Finn finished the 2018 season without a win, in a year where his team-mate Lewis Hamilton took eleven race wins and the World Drivers title.
While many people will point to misfortune and team-orders as the cause of Bottas’ winless run, the truth is that in the races where he wasn’t compromised by bad luck – a total of 17 or 18 races – he just wasn’t close enough to his team-mate.
Indeed he only managed to beat his team-mate on four occasions (five if you count the Russian Grand Prix where he slowed to allow Hamilton past to take the win).
And the back story to the Russian Grand Prix team orders is that Mercedes, having proven in 2016 that they’re not a 1-man team, had little option but to ask Bottas to allow Hamilton by, as the Briton was in the thick of a title fight, whereas Bottas, by this point, was, to put it bluntly, an also-ran.
What will undoubtedly have ramped up the pressure on Bottas, and could have made Bottas’ winless season even significant is that Mercedes have signed Esteban Ocon as their reserve driver.
Ocon is a man with good F1 experience and buckets of potential and is widely tipped to replace Bottas at Mercedes at the end of the 2019 season when the Finn’s contract comes to an end.
Since Bottas left Williams at short notice to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg, he’s only ever been given a one-year contract.
It’s not surprising Bottas was happy to sign up to such a deal for a chance to drive the fastest car on the grid, and take the opportunity to prove he has the credentials to emulate Rosberg and snatch the World Championship form under Hamilton’s nose.
But after a promising start to his Mercedes career in 2017 where he stood on the podium 13 times and registered three wins, a lacklustre 2018 has threatened to derail any chance he has of proving he’s capable of challenging for the championship.
If by the end of next year he hasn’t at least taken the World Championship fight to Lewis Hamilton (who will no doubt be in the frame again next year, irrespective of how well Ferrari develop their car over the winter, and how punchy the Red Bulls are with their new Honda powerplant) then he can’t say that didn’t have ample opportunity to demonstrate his worth.
And then, when he is eventually replaced by Esteban Ocon (or even George Russell, depending on how he performs in his debut season!) and if there’s a seat going spare, then I’d be more than happy to see him back at Williams.