So race one of the 2017 season did not go the way Mercedes would have liked. Sebastian Vettel made it look easy after Mercedes gifted him P1. The questionable strategy decision may sting more than the defeat itself. For those of you who missed the race but still clicked on this link it was simple Mercedes pitted Hamilton from the lead to soon. As a result Hamilton came out behind Max Verstappen and couldn’t get around him. When Vettel pitted Hamilton had lost so much time tat Vettel retained first position. From that point on Vettel cruised to an easy victory.
There is a silver lining to this race for the silver arrows, Valtteri Bottas. The Finn showed impressive pace, even chasing down his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Last season that would have sent off alarms, buzzers possibly some screaming. Not this season though. Bottas calmly got within 0.300 of Hamilton. Bottas realized that catching Hamilton and passing him were two separate challenges. Not willing to risk an incident Bottas backed off content to finish third.
Bottas has already proved his worth to the team. Rosberg may have been the better driver but Bottas has already proven he may be the better teammate. Rosberg probably would have attacked Hamilton tooth and nail for second position. Especially when you consider the state of Hamilton’s tires. Hamilton feeling he should not have to give way to a teammate would have fought back. This is what made last season so exciting. It also probably took multiple years off of every Mercedes crewman’s lives.
Bottas has already shown the restraint you want in a teammate. Willing to take the position if an error is made but not willing to beat your teammate up over the position. That is how teammates operate in just about every form of motorsport outside of Mercedes the past 3 seasons. Mercedes hasn’t changed it’s tone, as long as both cars they are allowing them to have at it. Fortunately for Mercedes it would appear Bottas gets this whole team concept. He doesn’t look like he is going to beat up Hamilton for every position.
This is great news for Mercedes especially now that they have a new rival, Ferrari. Ferrari appears to be every bit as fast as the Mercs this season. Mercedes must be allowed to focus on the boys from Maranello instead of infighting between their drivers. Yes they didn’t win in Melbourne, however they can walk away knowing 2 positives in their favor. #1, Mercedes feels that the poor strategy that gave Ferrari the win can be easily fixed. #2, Bottas not only has pace but is willing to play nice within the team. A welcome change of pace from the tension packed 2016 season.
Mercedes is poised to come back in a big way in China. Bottas has the pace to be competitive and the restraint not to get into trouble with Hamilton. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a Merc 1-2. However there is another team riding a wave of confidence right now. They just won in fairly easy fashion, they wear red and they’re going to have a rather big say in China.