Whilst driving for Williams, Valterri Bottas seemed to have great potential generally besting his team mate’s, Maldonado and Massa but he certainly never dominated leading many to think the Finnish driver was at best; ‘solid’.
Others questioned just how good the young Finn was, indeed even Mercedes saw him as a stop gap measure after Rosberg’s shock departure when pairing him up with Hamilton.
Yet since the move to Mercedes, the Finnish driver has impressed and improved race after race. The latest evidence being Bottas’ grid penalty similar to Lewis Hamilton in Austria for a gearbox change but coming in one place better reaching 2nd. What is clear is that Bottas has stepped up his game this year.
The Finn is on a one-year contract with Mercedes, but Toto Wolff is convinced his driver’s performance warrants keeping him on-board for next season and beyond.
“I’m really satisfied with Valtteri,” Wolff told Finnish broadcaster C More when asked about Bottas’ future.
“I think looking at his performance, it really is a no brainer. But it’s not just about next year but also the years after. We have to put all the puzzle’s pieces together.”
The reference to ‘years after’ indicates that Mercedes are already thinking about what Lewis will do when his €30 million per year contract ends in 2018.
Despite the successes over the years including the win at Silverstone last weekend, there have been past tensions between Hamilton and the bosses of Mercedes. Indeed the British driver has threatened to leave the team on more than one occasion along with the repeated refusal to obey team orders at last year’s finale in Abu Dhabi when team mate Nico Rosberg secured his championship win.
Yes Lewis is superfast, an incredible driver and one of the best of a generation but he does come with serious ‘baggage’ on and off the track. Could Toto Wolff be seeing a hint of Mika Hakkinen in Bottas? A reliable, fast team player who also happens to be potentially made of championship winning stuff?
It’s early days for the fast Finn but there is the age old saying in motorsport,
“If you want to win, hire a Finn”