New Bottas boss thinks his Mercedes reputation was misleading
Valtteri Bottas’ reputation has “suffered” in the shadow of Lewis Hamilton and he is underappreciated as a Formula 1 driver, believes Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur.
Bottas joined Alfa Romeo for 2022 after five seasons at Mercedes supporting an unbroken run of F1 constructors’ championships.
In that time, Hamilton has won four drivers’ titles and was only denied a fifth in last year’s controversial Abu Dhabi finale.
While Bottas became a 10-time race winner at Mercedes and finished second in the championship in 2019, he never managed a serious title bid throughout the season and his record against Hamilton in a race situation was much worse. than in qualifying.
This left Bottas with a widespread reputation as a solid number two driver, but nothing more.
Now he’s thriving in the F1 midfield in his new career chapter as Alfa Romeo’s main driver.
Bottas has outqualified at least one car from his former team three times in four races so far as Mercedes are struggling at the start of the season and would have a 100 per cent points record had they not suffered a problem reliability in Saudi Arabia. .
Asked by The Race if he thinks Bottas is underrated, Vasseur replied: “I think so. I think he suffered a bit.
“The fact is if you look at the gap between Valtteri and Lewis in qualifying, it was less than 0.2%.
“It’s minimal compared to all the other guys up front, Max [Verstappen and his team-mates] or so on.
“For sure racing performance is always a bit more difficult when you have Lewis in front of you.
“And when you start from the front row, you’re always very exposed.”
The move to Alfa Romeo to lead his F1 midfield recovery made Bottas a focal point for the first time.
His generally solid qualifying form was also supported by strong racing performances, while off the track he was praised for his efforts to help rookie teammate Zhou Guanyu and motivate the team. .
Vasseur believes Bottas is thriving in a “new role” and “new stature”.
“He puts a lot of effort into it,” Vasseur said. “For sure he has learned a lot at Mercedes over the last five or six years.
“But he’s always been a bit in the shadow of Lewis, and he’s doing a great job.”
Zhou scored a point on his F1 debut and enjoyed a steady start to his debut season, but Bottas alone scored more points than Alfa Romeo managed in the last two championships combined.
This is mainly due to the team’s decision to sacrifice the 2021 season and put all of its attention and development resources into the new 2022 technical regulations – which is part of what convinced Bottas to join a team that had spent the last two years at the back. from midfield.
Vasseur, who played a key role in hiring Bottas, said he believed this type of resurgence was possible, but admitted it was a small relief to immediately give Bottas proof of the potential of the game. ‘team.
“Last year I think we did a good job,” Vasseur said, referring to the undeveloped 2021 car driven by Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.
“It’s hard to say when you score 13 points over the season, but the engine was probably not the best, we stopped the development of the car and so on.
“But at the end of the day I felt that sometimes we were almost overperforming with the package we had. And I was convinced of that.
“When I had a discussion with Valtteri, I was trying to explain the reason why we were so far away. I think we had a good but very open conversation.
“Of course it’s important to get the results now, because he can start the collaboration knowing ‘OK, they didn’t bullshit me’!”