In Formula 1, there’s a great saying. There are drivers and then, there are the Finns. At the season-opener at the Melbourne Grand Prix earlier today, Valtteri Bottas proved just that.
Former F1 driver Mark Webber asked him what he had for breakfast that day. The simple answer was, porridge. But given the way the 29-year-old drove on March 17, 2019, it was clear; Valtteri Bottas ate his competitors like a hungry driver famished for a good race.
And a good one it became in the end did it not?
How else are you to put it when a driver who one often doesn’t reserve lavish praise for – but hey, why would anyone anyways given he was winless in 2018- beats the most successful man on the grid, Lewis Hamilton?
In setting the fastest lap of the day, going blisteringly quick at 1.25.580, holding on to the lead of the race right at the opening stages and, importantly keeping arguably the most likely contender to win (as revealed by Hamilton’s pole) behind the tail of his Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas has fired the opening salvo.
The others, it was evident out here at Albert Park were playing catch up to the flying Finn.
In so doing, with Hamilton finishing runner’s up and failing to win despite having grabbed the 83rd pole of his career and Ferrari’s go-to man Sebastian Vettel finishing well outside the podium, Valtteri Bottas has laid the foundation of a season and not his five-time world champion teammate.
Therefore, the 2019 F1 season, it could be said, at least from the perspective of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s fans hasn’t really begun exactly with a bang- or has it?
That told, while the 2019 Australian Grand Prix may not have exactly been tug of war between familiar frontrunners at the grid- the Vettel versus Hamilton show that’s been the 2017 and 2018 headline material at Albert Park- Valtteri Bottas’ fans, chilled out and sedate they may be won’t complain a bit.
But Valtteri Bottas’ fourth race win, incredibly one right at the start of a brand new season does more than add to his confidence with 20 races remaining on the calendar.
Valtteri Bottas’ comprehensive win justifies his candid confession as shared prior to the beginning of 2019 season, “I’m going to try to beat everyone.” Moreover, it doesn’t come across as a show of verbatim. Nor did this bold declaration point to irrational exuberance.
To that end, Valtteri Bottas was clearly the fastest man on the grid on multiple occasions- a 1.27.108 in Lap 38 bettered by 1.27.043 on Lap 42, which was eventually excelled by the scorcher of a lap set at 1.25.580- magnifies the driver’s hunger and drive this year.
Who knows what lies ahead? Formula 1, after all, remains embedded in the DNA of uncertainty- does it not?
But what can be said for certain is that Valtteri Bottas – 7 fastest laps in 21 Grands Prix in 2018 – knows what he is doing at present. So will Lewis be playing catch-up or will we see a reverse in fortunes come the next race?