Battling Valtteri Bottas is what F1 needs
CAPE TOWN - The only good thing to come out ofValtteri Bottas' drive at Imola a fortnight ago, was that Mercedes were able to salvage his wrecked car's engine.
In a meeting of the incumbent Bottas and future Silver Arrows driver George Russell's vehicles at the circuit, harsh words were exchanged, the Brit slapping the Finn on the helmet moments after the shunt, and receiving a middle finger in kind.
It was not either driver's finest hour, especially Williams' Russell.
Bottas hasn’t had a good season so far, even though it has only been two races, and many will argue he has not had a good career at Mercedes either.
The Finn has won only nine GPs for the Silver Arrows, compared to the 42 and four world championships of Lewis Hamilton and hasn't reached the heights of his promise when he joined the team.
The 31-year-old seems to be stuck in his own head right now, a theory also proposed by former driver Felipe Massa this week.
At Imola he had a race weekend to forget, while at the season-opening Bahrain GP he finished third, over 37 seconds behind Hamilton.
During the third season of Netflix's Drive to Survive, Bottas also admitted to towing Max Verstappen during qualifying at the Russian GP last year, improving the Red Bull's driver position to second on the grid, while he qualified in third.
Bottas' race engineer hopped onto the radio to say rather incredulously: "Verstappen can thank you for that tow," while Bottas said of the incident afterwards: “To beat Lewis, I always race hard, fair, but sometimes, it’s like 'f*** it.' After Sochi 2018, I realized you have to take all your opportunities.”
There were also moments ... instances ... were his displeasure at Mercedes seeped through onto film.
It all points to a driver that is becoming increasingly frustrated, and there are even murmurs in the paddock that he is in a similar position as that which Sebastian Vettel found himself in 2020 with Ferrari – a driver moved to the side with all the focus pin-pointed on his teammate.
Russell, meanwhile, is waiting in the wings to swoop in on his seat, with many believing that he will be in that Mercedes cockpit next year.
Bottas is the Silver Arrows' No 2 – he knows it, Hamilton knows it, his team knows it and we know it; and right now it seems to be having an effect on his performances.
The Finn, therefore, needs to bounce back as soon as this weekend at the Portuguese Grand Prix, but it seems he has neither the pace, form, the set-up, or the motivation to do so.
On top of that, he will have a scant amount of time from today onwards to work out the kinks of a new chassis, the result of that crash at Imola.
He cannot afford to fall further behind.
He does have the ability, and if he can find himself this weekend, F1 fans could be in for a treat of a four-way battle.