We all knew it was going to happen, we all questioned why it took so long to officially announce, but finally we can stop all the speculation as Valtteri Bottas is officially the 2nd driver for Mercedes AMG F1. Weeks ago it became very apparent that Mercedes wanted a more experienced driver than their own talented but young Pascal Wehrlein. The young German seemed like a natural fit but was deemed too young, too inexperienced to be given a seat on the 3 time defending constructors champion.
Question remaining is where does this leave Mercedes heading into the 2017 season? Surely losing the defending world champion to retirement has left a void that will not be filled right away. Or will it? I don’t believe Nico Rosberg was one of the great World Champions of this or any era. I think he was a good driver who drove a great car and had luck on his side. Nico did what he had to win a championship, no doubt, but I do not think he was a supreme talent that can not be replaced. Assuming he builds a good working relationship with Mercedes, Bottas will slot in nicely with his new team. Bottas has shown encouraging pace with a 2nd tier team in Williams. Despite not having a win or pole to his name Bottas has shown flashes, that if given the chance in the right car he could shine.
“It’s very exciting times for me,” said Bottas. “I think it’s going to take a while to understand that this is really happening. It’s definitely another dream come true, to race in another team with such great history – especially in the recent years, which have been so impressive. I’m really proud to become a part of that and grateful to everyone at Mercedes for trusting my skills and giving me this opportunity.”
Despite the drama of this entire situation, I don’t think Mercedes will miss a beat next season. I don’t think they will dominate like they did these past 3 seasons but that will be down to new regs and someone using them to catch up. In fact I think the mood surrounding Mercedes will be a much nicer one then it was this past season. Clearly the drama surrounding Lewis and Nico took its toll on all parties involved. By introducing a new driver into the mix, at least for 2017, there should be less drama within the team. Bottas is not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but I think for his first season with a title contender he will play nice.
All this is good news for Lewis Hamilton. Bottas will be itching to prove he deserves the seat, but that goes deeper than winning races. How he works with his more accomplished teammate is almost as important. The past 3 seasons Mercedes has had the philosophy of allowing their drivers to race amongst themselves as long as they didn’t crash into each other. I think despite their best intentions at some point it will be clear end that Lewis is the #1 and Bottas the #2. I just don’t think you can justify putting a 3 time world champ equal status with a guy who has never won a race in F1. Mercedes’ best chance to claim their 4th straight constructors championship is to have Lewis as the clear #1 and Bottas there should Lewis falter.
But this brings me back to the original question, will Mercedes miss Nico? Nico’s familiarity with everything and everyone is not something that can be replicated overnight. Bottas will have to work extra hard to build working relationships with his new team and engineers. However if he can manage that I do think that Mercedes will be pining for Nico at season’s end. If anything I think this makes Mercedes more organized with a clearer vision for the season. I think team definitions will be clear-cut, and armed with that knowledge and focus I feel Mercedes is primed and ready for another title chase in 2017.
Bottas first interview as a member of Mercedes AMG
Source: Mercedes F1