New season, new driver, same old narrative over at Mercedes AMG. Mercedes is very proud of the fact that they allow their drivers to compete against one another. To Mercedes it doesn’t matter who finishes first and who finishes second as long as both cars finish and finish well. This is in stark contrast to the norm in Formula 1. Typically a team has a clear number one and a clear number two.
“Nico showed beating Lewis is possible,” New Mercedes man Valtteri Bottas told Sky Sports. “I am not here to be in second place or worse. It is definitely a challenge, and going up against Lewis is always going to be a challenge, but for me a massive opportunity.”
As a team owner in any sport you want your new acquisition to be hungry. You want them willing to fight for every position. However you also want them to fit in with the team and team goals. Allowing drivers the latitude to go for it against their own teammate is a recipe for disaster. Sure it has worked for Mercedes in recent history but they have walked a very fine line in doing so. You can only walk that line for so long before it bites you. Furthermore at some point Lewis Hamilton is going to feel disrespected. He has won 3 World Titles while Bottas hasn’t won anything. At the very least Bottas should have to prove himself at Mercedes before he gets put on level footing with Lewis.
“I really respect what Hamilton has done with his career, so many poles and wins and three titles. I still don’t have a race win so I have a lot to prove. I haven’t yet proved pretty much anything in Formula 1, everything is still ahead.” Bottas Said.
It would appear Bottas understands the incredible position he finds himself in. Think about it, he was resigned to driving for Williams in 2017. He was stuck in the position of fighting for an occasional podium for another season. Then Nico Rosberg shocks everyone and retires leaving Mercedes stuck trying to find a driver at the last moment. I’m sure Bottas wasn’t at the top of their wishlist, however the timing of the entire situation left Mercedes without many options. Merc elected to go with the more experienced Bottas over their talented but unexperienced driver, Pascal Wehrlein.
This entire situation should have provided Mercedes with a chance to rethink their strategey for at least the 2017 season. Given the fact they don’t have the driver they expected for the season maybe for one year they could go back to the conventional number one and number two driver system. This would complicate things less given they also have new chassis regulations this season. Having one less thing to worry about could prove valuable, especially when you consider the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari could close the gap thanks to the new regulations.
Anyway you slice it 2017 will be an interesting season. I will be very curious how much rope Bottas will have in the early part of the season. I think Merc wants to keep their have at it boys strategy but should Bottas prove he is risking the team’s chances they may reel him in. Or at least a rational team that makes decisions using logic would reel him in.