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How Will the Addition of Bottas Affect Lewis Hamilton This Year?

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Valtteri Bottas in a Williams

Valtteri Bottas at the wheel of a Williams F1 car
Photo: Jake Archibald

Whether you were rooting for him to win or just enjoyed watching exciting racing action, there’s little doubt that Nico Rosberg was an amiable character in the sport of F1.

He wasn’t exactly a trailblazer who you expected to pull off the most outlandish maneuvers, the sort that made the greats of F1 like Senna, Schumacher and Prost true legends, but he was a solid driver who was able to win a World Championship whilst, on the whole, keeping teammate Lewis Hamilton in check and keeping team disagreements to a minimum.

Rosberg Out, Bottas In

With Rosberg choosing unexpectedly to retire, though, that “big personality” in the form of Lewis Hamilton now has a new teammate in Valtteri Bottas.

Lewis Hamilton is already the favorite for the Drivers’ Championship, with Betway offering odds of 5/4 for him to win a fourth World Championship, but question marks now hang over his ability to maintain a solid working relationship with Valtteri Bottas, with the risk emerging that he will feel overly emboldened in his role as the perceived “main driver” for Mercedes.

Bottas shares many of the same qualities that Rosberg displayed in F1, namely being a solid if unspectacular driver and an individual keen to avoid making headlines for the wrong reasons. With Bottas’ relative lack of experience, though, will Lewis Hamilton now make it clear that he expects to see team orders turn in his favor? If so, there is a risk he will start to be treated in a similar manner to how Schumacher was when he was effectively King of Ferrari, and the only driver who had any real say on how the race would be run by his team.

Lessons Learned From Final 2016 Race

When Lewis Hamilton was chastised during the final race of last season after he decided to try and win the Championship by backing up the pack in the hope that Rosberg would crack and lose his position (and therefore the title), it was noticable in the fall-out from Rosberg’s retirement that the main players at Mercedes regretted the criticism that the Brit came in for.

This may have entered their decision-making process when it comes to Bottas, who has no previous titles to his name. In fact, it is hard to see past Hamilton now emerging strongly at the head of the team alongside team managers Niki Lauder and Toto Wolff.

lewis hamilton mercedes f1

Lewis Hamilton driving for Mercedes
Photo: Alberto Gonzalez Rovira

Emboldened Hamilton: A Positive or Negative?

All of the evidence points to Hamilton, in a newly emboldened postition as head driver, moving into a position where he may begin radioing in for his understudy to let him past in order to ensure he wins a race, or demanding he gets first call on pit stops, and ensuring he knows what strategies are being implemented by his team and by the Bottas team.

This was never the case with Rosberg, who was treated as an equal, despite the view of Lewis Hamilton that he was by far the superior driver and his feeling that he was given the rougher deal by Mercedes when it came to parity.

This new position could turn out well for Lewis, who could be set to rule the roost at Mercedes now for some time to come. However, is it good news for F1 fans? Had a bigger personality and a more talented driver such as Fernando Alonso been recruited as teammate, you might have seen a few more sparks flying as two top drivers fought over a title, increasing sustained excitement, but the reality seems to be that unless Bottas gets off to a flyer and leaves Hamilton looking like a shock understudy (there are surprising odds of 2/1 for Bottas to win more races than Hamilton), we could be in for some boringly predictable results this year.

They do say that pride comes before a fall, so as emboldened as Lewis may be feeling, and as confident of his prospects for this year as he may be, much stranger things have happened when it comes to reality playing out expectations.