F1 2017 driver review: Valtteri Bottas

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Valtteri Bottas

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 77
Races: 20
Wins: 3
Podiums (excluding wins): 10
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 305
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.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.