Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 77
Podiums (excluding wins): 10
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 2
Laps Led: 187
Championship Position: 3rd
When asked for a single word to sum up his season at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, Valtteri Bottas elected to use “disappointing”.
Rewind 12 months, and the Finn would never have used such an adjective to describe a year that saw him win three races, take four poles and finish the year third in the championship. However, given he was driving for Mercedes and stood a chance in the title fight at one stage, the late-season downturn left Bottas frustrated at a missed opportunity to capture a shock maiden title.
Bottas took to life at Mercedes well after being drafted in as a late replacement for Nico Rosberg following the German’s sudden retirement. He was on pole for just his third race, and won his fourth in Russia with a convincing display after being hounded by Sebastian Vettel throughout.
All three of Bottas’ wins – add Austria and Abu Dhabi to his maiden victory – were taken in similar fashion, soaking up race-long pressure from a car just behind to convert it into victory. They were icy cool displays befitting a Finnish racer.
And yet there were never any devastating, dominant displays as executed by Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Bottas was more consistent through the middle part of the year, with five straight podiums from Canada to Hungary putting him in the title fight, but no wins between Austria and the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi proved costly.
Curiously, Bottas’ form began to dip when Mercedes confirmed his new contract for 2018, with the ex-Williams racer admitting himself it was one of the toughest patches of his career. However, he was able to bounce back well late on, taking pole for the final two races and capping the year off with a win in Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps the season was disappointing for Bottas in so much as he didn’t beat his teammate or live up to the potential of the car. But given this was his first year in a top team, he performed decently enough for the most part.
The real question is whether it is enough in the long term for Mercedes. With the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon already being linked with a seat for 2019, Bottas will head into the new season knowing he must up his game and really take the fight to Hamilton if he wants certainty regarding his future.
Season High: Soaking up pressure from Vettel to take his first win in Russia.
Season Low: An anonymous run to P5 at the United States GP as Hamilton dominated.