Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas knows that this year will be make-or-break for him as far as his Formula 1 career at Mercedes is concerned.
Bottas has been at the wrong end of the stick on certain occasions with regard to preference given to fellow teammate Lewis Hamilton.
In the third season of the Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive, he talks about how he turned the tables and scripted a win for himself in Russia.
He had been ordered to give way to Hamilton in 2018 with the team hoping that the British driver could further extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ standings. Bottas looked destined to win the race till that point, but he eventually had to settle for second position.
He explains how that left him so gutted. He recalled being ordered by chief strategist James Vowles on the team radio to allow Hamilton through.
However, he learnt a lot from this experience and had a plan in mind if ever such a situation came again.
Bottas was in second position with seconds to go in qualifying. After finishing his flying lap, he gave Max Verstappen a little help. The Finnish driver gave him a small tow and the Dutchman capitalised on this to improve his time and qualify in second place.
“At every other track on the calendar, the position to start is either first or second. But, actually on this track, if you want to win the race, you want start either first or third,” Bottas said.
“It’s nearly one kilometre to the first corner. If you are following a car, its less air to push away, so you go faster on the straight. That’s a huge advantage.”
Bottas argued that this allowed him a clear tactical advantage. “To beat Lewis, I always race hard, fair, but sometimes, it’s like ‘F*** it’. After Sochi 2018, I realised you have to take all your opportunities.”
This will be an interesting season for Bottas. It is unlikely that he will be able to defy team orders so easily, especially with him being in the last year of his contract and Mercedes reportedly keeping tabs on a number of other drivers.
At the same time, if he allows Mercedes to dictate terms to him, he may not be in a position to find a driving gig for another team if Mercedes dispenses with him.
Do you believe Bottas will redeem himself and win another contract at Mercedes?