Bottas Needs Second-Half Surge to Ease Pressure

thumb gw300618f1Eyebrows were raised when Mercedes made the decision to hand Valtteri Bottas the spot alongside Lewis Hamilton on their team following Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

The Finn was solid during his time with Williams, but was not an outstanding candidate to replace the reigning champion.

Bottas played second fiddle to Hamilton in his first season with Mercedes, although he did manage to record three victories, including the first of his career in Russia. The performance was outstanding from the 28-year-old as he started in fourth position on the grid. Bottas made a brilliant start to the meet as he leapfrogged Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to take the lead, which he did not surrender to secure his place on top of the podium.

The calibre of that display along with a strong end to the 2017 term suggested that Bottas was capable of making a charge for the Drivers’ Championship. He finished third in the standings behind Vettel, although he was off the pace of his Mercedes team-mate.

Rosberg enjoyed a strong end to the 2015 campaign before making his bid for glory the following season. However, the Finn has not been able to emulate his exploits at the half-way stage of the 2018 season, highlighted in the latest F1 betting odds backing the 28-year-old at odds of 66/1 to win the Drivers’ Championship. Bottas has suffered from his fair share of misfortune on the track that could have kept him in contention with Hamilton and Vettel, although he has also not been able to display the clinical edge to maximise his opportunities.

A crash in Australia in the opening race of the term knocked him down the grid during qualifying, forcing him to come through the field. The Finn moved up one spot in Melbourne into eighth, but that was as good as it got for him as Vettel claimed the win. Bottas improved the level of his performance in Bahrain to finish second as only the pace of the German bested him on the track. His first misstep of the term came in China as he failed to close out a victory. The Mercedes had done well to overtake Vettel and Raikkonen, only to suffer the same fate himself 11 laps from the finish as Daniel Ricciado triumphed.

Bottas appeared to be on course for his first win of the season in Azerbaijan. A series of collisions opened up a path for the Finn to take the lead and he fended off several attempts from Hamilton to maintain his advantage, only to suffer a puncture in the closing stages. The slice of luck handed the Brit the victory, while Bottas placed down in 14th. Hamilton again was the only man quicker than him in Spain as he dominated the week, although Bottas claimed his third second-place finish of the term.

Another second-place followed in Canada, although he appeared to finally be on course for his first victory of the campaign in Austria. The 28-year-old clinched pole position for the first time, but just 13 laps into the race a hydraulics failure knocked him out of action, providing further frustration for the Finn. Bottas has been solid during his time with Mercedes, but the level of competition from Ferrari and Red Bull could loom large not only in the Drivers’ Championship but also the Contructors’ crown. Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have both highlighted their talent with Red Bull and it could prompt Mercedes into action to lure one of the drivers away to ensure they remain top dogs in the sport. Bottas has to find an answer in the second half of the season otherwise he could be under severe pressure to hang on to his spot.

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