It’s early doors yet, but the silly season is never far away from the F1 drivers minds. And with Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button’s contracts up at the end of the year, then the F1 driver market should create more interest than just the ‘will he stay or will he go’ Jenson Button end of year storyline.
With 22 seats available (assuming Sauber survive) there is more opportunity for an experienced driver than in recent years but to get a front of the grid seat is still as difficult as ever.
With Kimi Raikkonen expected to retire at the end of the year, a top drive will become available for one of the lucky F1 pilots and if we turn back the clock just 12 months, then just one name would have been on most people’s lips. The new flying Finn – Valtteri Bottas.
Valtteri is the only driver on the grid – besides last years rookies Verstappen and Nasr – who has beaten his team mate in every season he has competed in Formula One. He has 8 podiums to his name driving for a team that has never been the second best on the grid.
Bottas finished the 2015 season in 5th place in the driver’s championship predictably behind the four drivers from Ferrari and Mercedes, though for some his failure to dominate Ferrari reject Felipe Massa is a cause for concern. Their head to head record last year saw Bottas qualify ahead of Massa 11 times, but Massa was quicker on 8 occasions – and there was just 15 points between them at the end of the season.
This season hasn’t started too well for Valtteri failing to qualify for Q3 in Australia though he did pip Massa to P6 in Bahrain but by just 2/1000ths of a second.
Massa has finished ahead of Bottas in the opening two rounds of the season and Valtteri’s ill judged positioning at turn one last time out left him again with too much to do to overhaul Massa.
The current standings see Felipe Massa in P7 with 14 points whilst his team mate languishes down in 11th with just 6 points to his name. Yes, there are 19 more races to go, but the 2016 F1 season has not started well for Bottas and he will need to dominate ex-Ferrari driver Felipe Massa this year – by some measure – if he wants a seat at Formula One’s top table next season. If not he may well be on the way to becoming the next Nico Hulkenberg.