Can Sochi specialist Valtteri Bottas win the Mercedes Manufacturers’ Championship? | Formula One
There won’t be much to separate Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship this season, we know that. Thousands of columns and hours of TV previews have debated which driver will win the most compelling F1 title race in a generation, but the race for the constructors’ championship is just as interesting.
One man who will play a huge role in the overall title destination will be Valtteri Bottas. Still a reliable Hamilton liner, the Finn will be leaving the Mercedes garage for Alfa Romeo next year, but he will be the deciding factor for Mercedes to retain the constructors’ championship this year.
Sochi is the perfect place for him to once again show his worth to the German squad, and perhaps show them what they might miss next season. At this track last year, he came from third place on the grid to beat Verstappen and his teammate Hamilton to the checkered flag, which earned him two wins and three more podiums in Sochi for Bottas. This track, on the shores of the Black Sea, has been an incredibly happy hunting ground for Mercedes, they have won every Russian Grand Prix since 2014.
But Red Bull, as we’ve seen this year, is closer than ever to the current champions. It was Bottas ‘performance last time at Monza, an impressive third place behind McLaren duo Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris that brought the Silver Arrows back to the top of the constructors’ championship and it looks like it will be his duel with Red. Bull driver Sergio Perez who will decide the title’s destination.
“For Valtteri he drives better than ever, as we saw at Monza,” Toto Wolff said. “He’ll be full out every weekend. There’s a calm determination about the squad right now and the end of a commercial season, fighting for the championships, is exactly what we enjoy the most.
In the last six races where both drivers finished, Bottas has beaten the Mexican every time and Perez has only achieved one top three since his victory in Azerbaijan in early June. If Mercedes wins this tag team title, it won’t be because of the difference between Hamilton and Verstappen, but the chasm that has widened between Bottas and Perez. He is now 23 points ahead of his rival in the drivers’ standings, while the talented Lando Norris, who will replace Bottas next year, is ahead of Perez in fourth. Bottas is 7/2 with Betfred to come home first this weekend.
“We are looking forward to racing in Russia again, it is a circuit on which we have performed well over the years and both of our drivers have had great results in Sochi,” continued Mercedes boss Wolff. “We hope to continue our streak of success in Russia, but know that this year is a whole different beast, and we expect another intense weekend.
“The last time at Monza was bittersweet – an impressive performance and a good result for Valtteri but a feeling of missed points for Lewis, who had the potential to fight for victory. What’s nice is that the W12 looks competitive and with only eight races to go, now is the time to use our experience and focus on the details and processes that will get us across the line. », He concluded.
Wolff’s goal, like many before this weekend, will of course be on the title race. Verstappen takes a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race, which will further reduce his chances of victory, but he holds a five-point lead over Hamilton at the top of the standings. Beware though, as all eyes are on this fiery duo, Bottas could help extend Mercedes’ 18-point lead in constructors and pull this particular title away from Red Bull. His team will bet on a victory in Hamilton here, but let’s not exclude that the famous Finn will end up in Sochi.