The last three Russian Grands Prix tell the story of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes career in microcosm. In 2017 he claimed his maiden F1 victory at Sochi, overtaking both Ferraris and fending off Sebastian Vettel while Lewis Hamilton languished in fourth amid Mercedes’ early-season tyre woes. That race marked Valtteri’s arrival as a potential top-line grand prix driver.
He should have won last year’s edition too but by then, with another 31 races in the books, the dynamic within Mercedes had shifted considerably. Having failed to become a proper factor in the title races of 2017 and 2018, by the time the circus returned to Sochi Bottas was cast firmly in a subjugate role, told to give up what would have been his only victory of last season to boost Hamilton’s score.
Fast forward another year and we’ve witnessed yet another Lewis Hamilton victory in Russia, only this time Bottas wasn’t even a factor. Sure, he finished second and held off Charles Leclerc in the closing stages, but until Mercedes got lucky with the safety car caused by Vettel’s engine failure Bottas was nowhere to be seen. He qualified six tenths down on Lewis, and even after clearing Carlos Sainz’s midfield McLaren Bottas simply fell away as Hamilton single handedly fought Ferrari through the first stint.
Bottas must be possessed of particularly robust mental strength to keep coming back for relentless punishment. How long before his dreams of world championship glory simply dissolve into delusions of grandeur? Andrew Benson sat down with Valtteri (see page 48) for this month’s cover feature, to discuss why exactly Bottas keeps signing on for what looks like the toughest driving job in F1 right now.
Until recently, Bottas faced an uncertain future in F1 – and he’s not the only one, so I’d like to take this opportunity to reassure our readers and subscribers about the immediate future of F1 Racing.
A proposed sale of F1 Racing magazine has been agreed between Motorsport Network and Lifestyle Media House, completion of which is conditional upon, among other things, obtaining third party consent.
Lifestyle Media’s company chairman, Clive Nørgaard Morton, said “These are challenging times for printed media, but Lifestyle Media House is committed to supporting the magazine and trying to grow its readership. We look forward to closing the transaction. Following completion, there is no imminent price rise planned, and we will be keen to engage with the F1 Racing readers and supporters to better understand what kind of magazine you want to read.”