Let’s set the scene. Nice Rosberg, the 2016 F1 World Drivers champion made a personal decision that was his own to not enter the 2017 championship as a driver for Mercedes. Still being under contract, he agreed to enter into a new role as an ambassador for the brand.
This decision left the Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff and his offsider, the non-executive director Niki Lauda with a big problem. Who do they take on as their second driver. The market had been set in place for 2017 but there was room for movement. This came in the form of Valtteri Bottas clearing out his locker at Williams and heading to Brackley to join the Mercedes camp.
For their other driver Lewis Hamilton this meant a new challenge. He had seen his former childhood friend whom he had been competing against since the days of karting now walking around with a super licence that had been stamped with the word ‘RETIRED’.
With the announcement that Bottas had taken on the position of the second driver at Mercedes there was of course the natural flurry of media interviews. The usual banter and standard comments were thrown around from Hamilton including, “He’s a nice guy” and “I’ve watched his career and he’s a good driver.” This in itself led to the speculation that Bottas had already been told he’d be the number two driver for the period of his one year contract.
We then recently heard of a ridiculous comment that had been made by Hamilton. He stated, “Bottas is the best team mate I’ve ever had.” Not discrediting Bottas’ ability or skill as a driver, Hamilton has had many team mates that have won drivers championships and had multiple wins.
Sure Bottas is a clean and fast driver that has shown a lot of potential during his stint at Williams, yet still hasn’t cast a shadow on the top step of the podium, but that day will come. What is hard to come to grips with though is Hamtilon’s statement about Bottas as a team mate. Sure they’ve had a good chat about the rules and requirements of being a number two driver at Mercedes, but Hamilton’s claim that Bottas is so good at sharing data and giving feedback is almost laughable after just four days of winter testing.
Let’s see if Hamilton has changed his tune at the end of the year. Bring on the 2017 F1 season!