For someone like Valtteri Bottas, it is tough to be seeing defending champion Lewis Hamilton win races week in and out. The driver from Finland has only won the Austrian Grand Prix this season and came close on a few occasions.
What is also commendable, is that he has finished at the top of the pile in the last four practice sessions. But, former driver and now Formula 1 pundit Jolyon Palmer, believes that Bottas needs to be pushing Hamilton even more than just delivering talks over the team radio.
Speaking on BBC’s F1: Chequered Flag podcast, Palmer said, “Bottas doesn’t like challenging Hamilton. He talks a lot on the radio. He really talks it up a lot.
“[At Mugello] he was like, ‘I want to do whatever Lewis doesn’t do’ and before [at Spa] he was like ‘why didn’t you give me the overtake option? You didn’t talk about this in the briefing’.”
Palmer might be onto something here. In Monza, Bottas was unable to stay close to Hamilton, citing a ‘phantom puncture’. Instead, there was no puncture and for much of the race, Bottas raced in P6.
The initial period of that race was his best chance to win, with Lewis Hamilton later being handed the 10-second penalty. Yet he finished in P5, and failed to close the gap to Hamilton in the Championship standings.
In the Hungarian Grand Prix, he had claimed that the lights on the steering wheel display affected him. But that cost him a P2 and slid down four places, eventually finishing at third.
There is of course no doubt that Bottas, at present, stands the best chance of dashing Lewis Hamilton’s hopes of a 7th title. But one of the attributes of a champion is capitalizing on the errors and mistakes of his/her rivals. And when Bottas’ biggest rival is his own teammate, the stakes are even higher.
Valtteri Bottas is now in 2nd place, 55 points behind Lewis Hamilton. The upcoming races in Sochi and Nurburgring are going to be quite important for him. And if he can consistently bring the practice and quali session form into the main race, it could show the first signs that Bottas is a very serious contender for the title.