The F1 Italian Grand Prix is starting to become a good luck charm for those who need it. This weekend’s race at the historic track did not disappoint and delivered the same. We saw Daniel Ricciardo from McLaren redeem a tough season with a well-earned win, and his teammate Lando Norris achieved the best-ever finish in his F1 career.
However, we saw a fearless Bottas this weekend in a manner akin to his time with Williams-Martini Racing at the 2014 British Grand Prix. Valtteri, who’s had a tough time since late last year driving next to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team, charged his way from the back of the grid after taking an engine change penalty. He charged through the field to P13 within the first 5 laps of the race and, post some minor defense from Vettel and Alonso, proceeded to P8 by lap 22. Then, after a magnificent overtake on Sainz, he caught up to Leclerc by lap 33.
The past week has been quite a whirlwind for Bottas. After the move announcement to Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen, he seems to have found some of his old self back – the same talent that made him Mercedes‘ choice to partner up with Hamilton in 2017. However, being a teammate of the 7-time world championship winner has its effects on a driver’s psyche.
In recent years, his talent has been eclipsed by the constant effort to match Hamilton rather than being himself. Constant comparison can do a driver more harm than good until they can find the internal and mental space to demonstrate their true potential, and we saw it in action this weekend.
Over the past few years, the grid has forgotten Bottas’s skills and fearlessness. We often forget that he beat out Vettel and Alonso to finish 4th in his second season in F1, although Williams had a much better car at the start of the hybrid era. A lot of it is because Valtteri himself may have forgotten what he can do with job security and a new engine, resulting in a pep in his step.
One-year extensions and not knowing where his future stood for a long time definitely added to the situation. Knowing his next steps, Bottas is probably hoping for a continuation of form going into Sochi, a track he tends to perform well at, and the rest of the historic 8th consecutive championship fight to help Mercedes seal the deal.
If not for Perez’s off-track overtake on Leclerc, that created a barrier for the McLarens ahead – we may have seen a different outcome on the podium this afternoon with the times Bottas pulled until the last few laps of the race. The aggressive driving eventually cost him tyre life and a loss of pace towards the end, but still a well-deserved podium considering where he started, if not an eventual win.
All eyes are peeled at who will be his partner on the grid next season at Alfa Romeo, but we hope the tide has turned for Valtteri’s confidence and career for now.
F1-Author: Abby Rakshit – @AbbyRakshit
Photo: Mercedes AMG F1 Team