Valtteri Bottas had a nervous first year with German team Mercedes in 2017. His move was not planned as he was a last-minute buy following the shock retirement of Nico Rosberg from F1 at the end of 2016. He won three races in 2017 but was nowhere close to competing with Hamilton in terms of pace or race performance.
But all that has changed this season. Bottas has put in some flying laps in qualifying and has been the more consistent driver for Mercedes ahead of teammate, Hamilton. While he may not have won any races so far, he has three second-place finishes and had a win in Baku cruelly taken away in the final laps.
There is no doubt he has been an improved performer from last year and Bottas feels the same way. “I think this year I have been meeting more or less my targets with the performance for the beginning of the year. I think I’ve been able to really continue good performances from the end of last year”, said the Finn.
He also admitted that his races were off the mark in the previous year. “There have been no weekends that I have been way off the pace, like there were a few last year. So I feel I have learned from those and need to continue my development.”
“There are never things that you can’t learn more, so I still hope I keep improving. I think there’s been quite mixed races and the end results haven’t been really I feel sometimes quite there, that I feel would’ve been possible with the pace we had”, added Bottas.
Toto Wolff echoed the same sentiment. The Mercedes team boss said, “Valtteri has been upping his game through the last races and has been very solid indeed. And that proves us right with our decision back in the day. And having two drivers close to each other in terms of performance levels and equally respecting each other and racing each other is the best case.”
Bottas is optimistic of his chances of winning in the season. He finished 20 seconds behind his teammate at the Spanish Grand Prix but that does not worry him. “The gap to Lewis was huge but I think there were many things that affected that. I’m happy and I know that I can win races and I know the speed is there for that. It’s just extremely difficult but it is possible and it will come”, he said.
The strong start by Bottas will delight Mercedes no end and to have both their cars perform at the level of a champion team is something we have come to expect from them in recent years. The Finn is looking extremely confident and the team will hope he keeps it up on a consistent basis throughout the season.