Bottas
2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Saturday - Steve Etherington

To date, only two team-mates have beaten Lewis Hamilton over the course of a season, but Valtteri Bottas still believes he can be the third.

On his day, Hamilton is almost impossible to beat, and he has proven time and time again that he is the benchmark, and with six world titles to his name, there is simply no arguing against it.

And to put into context how hard Hamilton is to beat, the two drivers to have beaten him over the course of the season have only managed it on one occasion, despite being team-mates with him for a number of years.

The first driver to achieve the feat was Jenson Button in 2011. Hamilton’s driving was simply not up to standard,as personal issues seemed to have an impact on his racing, and Hamilton ended the season fifth in the championship, while Button was runner-up to the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

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It was the only time Button beat Hamilton during their time as team-mates, and the following year, Hamilton just managed to win the head-to-head battle, finishing ahead of Button by a mere two points, despite Button having a better finish to the season.

It would be five years until Hamilton was beaten by a team-mate again, this time for the world championship in 2016, and it was Nico Rosberg who finished the season with five points more than Hamilton to secure his first world title.

But, the pressure of racing against Hamilton was so much, that Rosberg retired at the end of the season, unable to cope with the relentless pace and aggression Hamilton is capable of every weekend.

And so, Bottas stepped up in to the frame for 2017 and he made it his target to win the world championship with Mercedes.

With a top car, he had no other option than to say he wanted to win the title, but in his first season with the Silver Arrows he came up short, ending the season third in the championship, 58 points behind Hamilton.

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Again, last year, Bottas came out and said he was aiming for the title, but had an even tougher season – although some of it was down to reliability – and finished the season fifth, with 161 fewer points than his team-mate.

This season, Bottas arrived at the opening race with a different attitude, and dominated in Melbourne, beating Hamilton fair and square by just over 20 seconds.

It looked like the fight was on, and that Bottas had finally got himself in a position to fight for the title, but unfortunately, that hope and optimism was premature.

Despite matching Hamilton up until the Spanish Grand Prix, Bottas’ form then begun to fade slightly, while Hamilton went on a run of four consecutive wins, and Bottas would have to wait until Japan before he would stand on the top step once again.

The first quarter of the season promised so much, but Bottas was simply unable to string together the same level of consistency as Hamilton, an therein lies the issue.

There is no doubt that Bottas is quick, he has proven that time and time again, and he is more than capable of winning races, but he has never been able to string together a run of consecutive wins.

The 30-year-old has said that this year has been his best season in Formula 1 and it is hard to disagree, but if he is ever to go one step further and really fight for the championship all the way to the wire, he needs to be able to win consecutive races, and maintain his best form over the course of the whole season.

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After Bottas’ strong start to the year, it appeared as though he started to run out of energy, while Hamilton kept smashing out win after win, and in the end it was that level of consistency that showed up Bottas as the bridesmaid.

Next year will no doubt be an even tougher year for both Mercedes and Bottas, if Ferrari and Red Bull can properly join the title fight, and while that could play in to Bottas’ hands, with Hamilton potentially limited to fewer wins, it does mean it will be ever more important for Bottas to make a step up.

At the moment, the Finn is running at a level that would be considered to be strong and fast, but he needs to add one more gear to take him to the sublime, and be worthy of winning a title.

It isn’t easy, and as Hamilton has already proved, it takes someone special to beat him over a season, and at this stage, Bottas isn’t showing that he does possess the ability to move into the next level and replicate Button’s and Rosberg’s achievement.

This winter will once again prove another definitive one for Bottas, but if he can’t take his performances to another level in 2020, then it is unlikely he ever will.

 

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