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Why the bookies have stopped taking bets on Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes F1 team
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Bottas, Rosberg
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Dec 2016   |  1:01 pm GMT  |  365 comments

Mercedes may have thrown a ‘Christmas break’ fire blanket over the saga of their search for a driver to replace Nico Rosberg, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. It looks increasingly as though Valtteri Bottas is being lined up for the role.

The bookmakers, who have a nose for these kinds of situations, have stopped taking bets on Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s team mate for 2017.

For that transfer to happen Williams need an experienced replacement for Bottas and Felipe Massa seems willing to review his decision to retire. This decision was not motivated by the fire going out, but by the fact that Williams had decided to go forward with Lance Stroll and to hold Bottas to his contract and not release him for the move to Renault that he coveted. So Nico Hulkenberg made that move instead.

Bottas, Rosberg F1
It’s a good moment to evaluate why Renault wanted Bottas and why Mercedes has approached the last few weeks as they have.

Bottas, who has done 77 Grands Prix, the same as his racing plate number, holds the record for the most Grands Prix exclusively raced for a single team. He came into the sport with a strong junior record having won the Formula Renault titles and the 2011 GP3 title.

In many respects his career is comparable with the man he hopes to replace, Nico Rosberg; four seasons with Williams and then (he hopes) a move to Mercedes.

So in terms of a like for like replacement for Rosberg he is pretty much a photo fit of where Rosberg was in his late 20s.

If anything he looked to have a slightly higher level of potential than Rosberg in the early stages of his F1 career and he took advantage of the boost in competitiveness Williams gained in 2014 with the switch to Mercedes as the hybrid turbo engine era began. Bottas bagged six podiums and 186 points in 2014.

Bottas, Massa

In a comparison with Massa, in their three seasons together Massa scored 72% of Bottas’ points tally inn 2014, 88% in 2015 and just 62% in 2016, which indicates a positive trend for Bottas but was that against a declining baseline in Massa, now aged 35?

And that is the real key to this; Bottas is a reliable driver who has the capability to qualify strongly, race competitively and will bring you plenty of points across a season.

The interesting question is whether Bottas has flat-lined in the last year of whether he still has development potential. A conversation with Toto Wolff in the summer around this topic revealed a robust defence of the Finn’s record and ongoing development potential from the Austrian.

There is no question that Rosberg kept developing right up to the end of 2016 at the age of 31, which is admirable. One couldn’t say that of Juan Pablo Montoya, for example, who had far more talent than Rosberg but who didn’t apply himself to that relentless development path.

Only Rosberg’s harshest critics in the F1 paddock would begrudge him the title he won this year, given how much effort he applied to improving himself in all areas of the game.

Bottas covers pretty much all the bases Rosberg covered and the engineers can send him out in the car next year with the expectation that he will score consistent podiums and qualify towards the front of the grid; something they could not be sure of with Pascal Wehrlein, for example.

Paddy Lowe on F1 pit wall

F1 engineers constantly monitor the performance of the other teams and the other drivers and are aware of every single trend and blip that happens in a season. They see the McLaren chassis improving, they see drivers flat lining in performance or dropping backwards, like Sebastian Vettel did, for example, through what appeared to be frustration as the 2016 season progressed.

They see an outstanding Alonso performance that netted a sixth place in an uncompetitive car and it stands out on their data analysis screens and they take every detail and every happening into account.

They do this for many reasons, including for strategy planning purposes and also in case the team boss asks for a dossier on Driver X as he’s thinking of hiring him.

Some drivers appeal to teams for a while before they move there; Esteban Ocon has appealed to Force India since they tested him in 2015, for example and I would have bet my mortgage on him getting a seat there at some point.

Carlos Sainz appeals to both Ferrari and Renault and he’ll almost certainly drive one of their cars in 2018 if a place doesn’t come up at the top table with Red Bull.

I’d put reasonable money on Daniel Ricciardo pairing up with McLaren in the next couple of years if life with Max Verstappen becomes unsustainable at Red Bull.

So Bottas looks like an ideal ‘plug and play’ replacement for Rosberg and the question for those of us who take care of the fine details of F1, is how much growth there still is to come from the quiet Finn.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

A fine fin indeed in the great tradition. I am most pleased by this development.not outspoken as some of his fellow so called sportsmen.whitch I fined quite refreshing in this day and age .dear I say a real sportsman …oh p.s. Big al A great column…

2

Well at least there will be one successful, memorable move Bottas will be remembered for (even if it’s not on track). Shame his talent wont even get credit for this one, as it will always be remembered as facilitated by his manager and the Mercedes F1 boss, who happen to be the same person. Even worse, if he beats Hamilton to the title in even slightly dubious fashion, then all Hamilton’s supporters will cry foul (again?) poisoned chalice in many ways, Rosberg is a great example and he’d been at Mercedes from the start, Bottas better be either far superior to Hamilton (wouldn’t anyone have noticed by now?) or a willing number 2. Or hope Hamilton has a few mystery dodgy motors going POP! and occasional software set in the available “broken and doesn’t work but we programmed it in anyway” mode!
It doesn’t matter if it’s all fantasy and theory, psychology is part of all of the drivers tactics.
I cant wait 😉

3

Silly season v2 is finally settling down and also on the technical front its been a season longer than usual!

Pat Symonds is leaving Williams and most probably handing over to Mercedes’ technical director Paddy Lowe, whos Mercedes job probably goes to James Allison. Allison left Ferrari earlier this season, so quite some big rotations among the senior technical staff between top teams.

Bottas going to Mercedes is now a sure thing, as is Massa’s short-lived pension and coming back to Williams to team up with the 18 year old billionaire-son Lance Stroll. Some might wonder why, but please recall that Williams main sponsor is Martini & Rossi, so just because of that they need a real grown adult in at least one of their cars. In many countries (e.g. the UK) you have to be minimum 25 years old to be allowed to advertise for alcohol. ;o)

Massa signed his deal already yesterday. And all this now actually make some interesting consequences for next year in F1.

There is no guarantee that Bottas is sure on 2 years at Mercedes.
Almost all current drivers would say yes to drive even just a single year in what also next year is considered to be a race winning car. When Mercedes do not dare to gamble on one of their own young talents then the choice of Bottas is obvious. The Finn drives for ‘a Mercedes team’ and is managed by a company which Mercedes-teamboss Toto Wolff is co-owner of. Lauda has though said that Wolff is stopping in that management company as soon as Bottas is signed for Mercedes to avoid conflicting roles of interests.

Both Vettel and Alonso will be free for new contracting end of next year and more bidders expected to step up, certainly until Bottas proves he is up to the job next to Hamilton.

Perez chose to stay at Force India one more year, probably with the idea to go for a Ferrari seat in 2018. Bottas also considered a Ferrari-seat in 2018, but expect his focus now will have changed to do all possible to retain his seat at Mercedes beyond 2017. Carlos Sainz would also be a valid bid for the Ferrari seat, as he either needs to be promoted by then to Red Bull or move on to another big team. Both Ricciardo and Max appear locked in tight with Red Bull, but we all know that everything can be bought for money in F1. And Ferrari do have cash!

Could Grosjean or Magnussen be considered for a Ferrari seat if one of them have a super-season at the Ferrari powered Haas?

Mercedes contract with Bottas is a big loss for Wehrlein (and Mercedes’ own young drivers program) who do not even yet have a seat for next year. Mercedes have disregarded both Wehrlein and Ocon from their talent program. Ocon will go to Force India but they wont have Wehrlein. Allegedly because of some ‘attitude problem’… Manor do not confirm this btw! Wehrlein now fights for the last seat available at Sauber, as does Nasr, Haryanto and Gutierrez. Not sure we will see Manor on track next year?

4

Now we know who will drive, I’m curious who will sign on behalf of the teams.

5

Kobayashi to Williams! 🙂

6

It looks like this is going ahead.
Hamilton apparently vetoed Wehrlein as he has too much experience on next years tyres….and Wehrlein is quick. I think however, that Bottas is verrry quick, and will own Hamilton.

7

The article provides a pretty thorough summary of Bottas’ virtues but I still feel this set of (proposed) moves is uninspiring and regressive; F1 at its worst.

For me, what’s the point in having a Young Driver programme and then not giving them the opportunity? I appreciate Rosberg’s decision was a bombshell but he’s not flounced out mid-season like Carlos Reutemann, Niki Lauda or even Juan Manuel Fangio did! They’ve got 3-4 months to get someone like Pascal Wehrlein (clearly talented) up to speed before Melbourne; that’s not a lot different from what McLaren did when they signed Lewis Hamilton as a rookie for the 2007 season. What’s more, while Mercedes is full of competitive people they’re hardly starved of winning – they’ve won 90% of races in the past three years, boring 70% of the F1 fanbase (not me) into submission in the process. It’s not a bad time to give a young driver a chance and it allows them to make an investment for the future.

And Williams taking back Massa?! I’ve liked Felipe for years and the tributes that met his retirement were deservedly warm and appreciative. But to then bring him back? Granted, he started 2016 well but the rest of the campaign was underwhelming. It looked like a good time to end his F1 career and enabled him to go out with dignity and deserved plaudits. An extra year squabbling in the midfield, getting the odd commendable result but being shaded by an 18 year-old rookie? How does that benefit either the driver or the team? Appreciate there are commercial reasons for it (F1 fanbase in Brazil; Martini needing a driver of legal drinking age worldwide) but sporting ones? This is a sideways move when Williams should be looking forwards (though appreciate they may be wary of going backwards!).

To be fair, it’s a great opportunity for Bottas if he is offered it. At the moment, I’d say he is not assertive enough (on and off track) to be a world champion but this would be a great development opportunity for him to develop these and stamp his elite credentials. He is a good driver, though I can think of 6-7 who are ahead of him in the current pecking order. James mentions Montoya but I would probably compare him to Kovalainen; the Mercedes seat will either make him or break him. I do wish him well, because I do like him, and he was the favourite, even though I would prefer Merc to give Wehrlein a chance.

8

This is a bit of a “glass-half-empty” approach. Mercedes have already brought Wehrlein into F1, and that by itself should largely justify the yound driver programme. Obviously it is not at Red Bull’s level, but then it is easier with Redbull if you effectively have 4 seats on the grid that are up for grabs. I’m firmly old school and of the opinion that you have to pay your dues in F1 before you can jump to the head of the queue.

9

Mercedes have done a lot for motor sport and have seen potential in drivers such as Hakkinen and Hamilton, many others that never made it to an F1 race seat, but that’s my point, they show loyalty to Wehrlien and Ocon, getting them to F1, finding them seats, which speaks volumes about their integrity, but they simply aren’t up to the job of a seat in the works team. This is a traditional issue and accepted, I still agree with them not choosing to put these drivers in Rosbergs vacated seat, but take a look at Red Bull, now I’m not a big fan and didn’t think Webber got equal treatment as a Jaguar left over, but look at their academy, you get brought up the ranks only if good enough, evaluated in their own junior team and promoted to the top team, as Vettel was after a win in Toro Rosso, becoming a champion, then Ricciardo was promoted and wiped the floor with a four time champion, Kvyat was then promoted but quite frankly floundered, but rather than being ousted from F1 as would happen in any other team, he was moved back for re-training, a second chance at Toro Rosso, ok, he didn’t like it and complained, but that was saving face, he must have been delighted he wasn’t being blown away by Ricciardo and was out of the spotlight, but would appear maxed out if he’d admitted it. Apologies for the unintended Maxed out pun as his replacement V Max has taken F1 by storm and for anyone who belittles his talent, what were you doing better at 18? So back to the point, Red Bull, the modern Hesketh, party team, has 8 titles to its name, a list of drivers with potential champion linked to stories about them and Mercedes are stuck with 2 drivers they don’t want to risk and throwing tens of millions and a technical guru at another team to get the other, who for all his ability and calm racecraft has never stood out like a Ricciardo, Vettel or Verstappen. Red Bull seem to have the far better people structure on the face of it.

10

Problem at this moment in F1 is that there are many relatively old drivers and many young drivers, nothing in between at least not drivers who have potential for top teams. For that reason only such moderate drivers like Bottas can land a seat at Mercedes. In my opinion youngsters like Sainz, Wehrlein and Ocon are far more talented than Bottas. But Bottas is a safe choice, but as they say “you can’t win the war by safe choices”

11

Ricciardo to McLaren? Where did that come from? He’s going to be world champ in a Red Bull before he goes anywhere else. Kvyat would be a better choice for Williams than Massa.

12

Bottas is good at qualifying but rubbish at the start of the race always looses place we’re as massa always gains a few places massa is such a strong starter always as been always was the best but in bottas favour he is good at chatching up and over taking

13

I posted you a picture on Twitter James, in case you haven’t seen it: might Ricciardo’s test drive of an old Williams this year (after the Monaco GP) have anything to do with him possibly joining McLaren? You know, the car was run by United Autosports, whose chairman has now got a job at McLaren…

14

You might be on the right track..

15

Great insight James. I have to hand it to you, you were certainly one of the first to acknowledge Max’ potential outside of the regular Verstappen fan club. Besides you I have to congratulate Peter Windsor, Joe Saward, Martin Brundle and EJ. Personally I am really not interested in yesterday’s stock market report, I like to read the visionary reporters. Now, if Stoffel much like Hakkinen becomes McLaren’s no. 1, what would Ricciardo become, the new DC?

16

Hamilton is overrated and Mercedes knows it. Now they struggle.

Put Alonso, Vettel or a hungry Sainz next to him and his fancy partying in L.A is over. Starts are one of the only things a driver can influence and Hamilton messed up regularly.

Alonso won his WDC against Schumi, Vettel won his WDC against Webber, Alonso (twice) and Hamilton (remember 2010 Monza and Singapore..?)

Hamilton won his WDC against Massa and Rosberg, never driven a tank, always a frontrow car.

Mercedes want Hamilton out after 2017 and they want a driver who is okay with a 1 year contract for next year. Mark my words.

17

I think Bottas will raise his game. I find him better than Rosberg in terms of race craft and he is also less emotional. Rosberg had been pretty close to Hamilton, Bottas has a good chance to give Hamilton some hard time. And, if that happens Hamilton has showed that he can get frustrated quickly. I also hope that we will see some competition at the front having RBR and Ferrari in the mix.

18

one of the most exciting f1 races of the good old days. full of action.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qG5S8T-iwUg

19

hamilton said his partnership with certain drivers did have a “poisonous” effect on the team. true to say we all saw how the great mclaren died following hamilton’s exit.

21

Maybe Valterri will be too busy filming Goodfellas II?

22

James rosberg really beat hamilton regulary???

He only won when hamilton was thinking of which babe he wanted to spend the coming week

Rosbergs own words say alot…the last four races are the real ham and unbeatable…he new if that was the ham off 2017 he would have no chance……so lets retire…

I dont think we can put roaberg in the same league as hamilton, not even vettle…only alonso ric maybe ves

23

He won 22 races in their time together, some when Hamilton had problems, others not

I’d say that was “regularly”, although far from dominant. Hamilton won far more in the same time.

24

It was a dominant season of Rosberg for sure.
Lewis only led the WDC for 4 races out of 21.

Rosberg won the championship his way, in a very clean and civilized way.
Nico could hv easily paid back Barcelona in those last four races to increase his chances.
But no, Nico did it his way.

And it ain’t over till it’s over.
Lewis on a YOMYOMF moment.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-4044656/Lewis-Hamilton-says-problems-remain-Mercedes-team-claiming-disrespected-Abu-Dhabi-finale.html

25

Don’t choke on you aspirations Bottas otherwise it will be be bad for your career . James also the only reason betting will have been suspended is people have piled money on it and the bookies can shorten odds no longer not because the bookies have a hunch.

26

With the rumors of Massa coming back this becomes more and more likely. It’s all about making the second best choice. Personally I see Bottas as an ideal 2nd driver, the occasional win, lots of podiums, lots of points but no match to Lewis. So I hope 3 things: 1- I’m wrong, 2- the new Tag Heuer engine is reliable and powerful, 3- Ferrari get a decent chassis together. If not, congratulations Lewis on winning the 2017 WDC.

27

A question i have to do because of my music interested wife. She asked why are national anthems castrated nowadays? They often stop in the mid. Monaco with its live playing band is a difference.

28

James, has that comment regarding Ricciardo have anything to do with Zak Brown recently taking over Ron Dennis? I saw an interview with Peter Windsor (before Ron’s demise), that would indicate he likes Daniel.

29

The perfect driver would be Button.Good team player,almost as fast as Hamilton,they are friends,he does not crash,good public relations guy and very marketable.I think he would jump at the chance.

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