Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Monza, 2016

2016 F1 season driver rankings #10: Bottas

2016 F1 season review

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Valtteri Bottas destroyed his team mate in qualifying with a thoroughness no one else on the grid could match.

Valtteri Bottas

Beat team mate in qualifying17/21
Beat team mate in race9/16
Races finished19/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate609/1087
Points85

The season finale at Yas Marina was only the fourth time all season Felipe Massa beat Bottas in qualifying. And Massa’s four ‘wins’ included Baku, where damage from a broken drain forced Bottas out of final practice, and Sepang, where he had a problem with his engine settings.

The upshot was Bottas won 17 qualifying battles and might have had a couple more. And though he wasn’t quite as successful in the races he remained the leading points scorer for Williams. He also gave them their only podium appearance of the entire season, in Canada.

Bottas can usually be relied upon to stay out of trouble – particularly on the first lap, which often costs him. So his Bahrain run-in with Lewis Hamilton came as something of a surprise. As the rest of the season demonstrated, incidents like these were very much out of character for him.

But as Williams found themselves in retreat during 2016 so Bottas spent more time in the thick of the scrap for the lower reaches of the points. His consistent points-gathering was interrupted by the three wet races which exposed Williams’ greatest vulnerability of the past three seasons.

The team were locked in a scrap with Force India at the end of the season and Bottas shouldered more of the burden than his team mate. He led both VJM09s home in Malaysia. But a trio of late-season no-scores for Bottas helped tip the balance towards their rivals. These included two first-lap incidents in which he was blameless and a suspension failure at the season finale.

There were a few moments of less-heralded heroics in among his careful points-gathering. Out-qualifying Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull at Monza was an impressive effort, and he was brave to spend as much time as he did on intermediates in Brazil, for no reward.

Bottas did a quietly impressive job in 2016 and already looked more than ready to assume the role of team leader alongside Lance Stroll. But Mercedes’ urgent need to find a replacement for Nico Rosberg could lead to an exciting change of plan.

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Over to you

A good season for Bottas against a backdrop of a fading team-mate and a fading car competitiveness.

Must shake off the good-but-not-great moniker if he’s to move up. Rosberg did so, but can he?
@Montreal95

What’s your verdict on Valtteri Bottas’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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View race-by-race notes on Valtteri Bottas

Australia – Said he struggled for grip in qualifying and failed to make the eight-car cut for Q3. A gearbox penalty meant 11th on the grid became 16th, but by the time the chequered flag had fallen he had recovered all that and more to finish eighth. As is often the case he seemed to get crowded out at the start and lost a position. After that he produced a strong pass on Palmer and made the most out of a solid Williams strategy and a quick pit stop on his way to the points.

Bahrain – A much better qualifying performance than in Australia but not enough to keep Red Bull from beating Williams to fifth place. He made a stunning start followed by an uncharacteristically ambitious move on Hamilton which failed to pay off and earned him a drive-through penalty. Had much better pace than Massa on medium and soft tyres but ended up ninth.

China – Rob Smedley praised his run to fifth on the grid which, aided by the new front wing, seemed the best the Williams was capable of. Bottas was delayed by the first corner crash, however, and struggled for pace on the medium tyre in his final stint. Raikkonen and the two Toro Rosso drivers relegated him to tenth.

Russia – At a track which suited the Williams and its Mercedes engine, and where Bottas has been strong in the past, he delivered, splitting the Ferraris in qualifying to claim a place on the front row of the grid. Having dropped behind Raikkonen at the start he reclaimed the position with a rapid restart. However he lost time battling Hamilton after his first pit stop and was jumped by the Ferrari again, dropping to fourth.

Spain – Left Massa well behind as he took seventh on the grid. However a cautious run through the first two corner cost him places to Raikkonen and Sainz. He jumped back ahead of Sainz via the undercut, and although he probably wouldn’t have been able to keep Raikkonen behind it would at least have made his race more interesting. Picked up his pace too late in the final stint to pinch fourth from Ricciardo.

Monaco – Neither Williams driver made it into Q3, but a top ten start and Kvyat’s early problem made points a possibility for Bottas. However an early stop for intermediates dropped him behind Wehrlein, and by cutting the chicane as he passed the Manor Bottas left himself needing to let Wehrlein through along with Verstappen, who had just made a pass of his own. By the time the Manor had pitted Bottas had lost three places, and though a last-lap pass on Gutierrez restored him to 11th he was given a ten-second penalty for tangling with the Haas driver and moved back down the order.

Canada – A Montreal specialist, Bottas was happy with his car from the word go and put it seventh in the grid. He had great pace at the end of his ultra-soft tyre stint and was closing on the Red Bulls, which he eventually got in front of by pulling off a one-stop strategy, something few others managed.

Europe – Flew on Friday but was frustrated on Saturday. A drain cover damaged his car at the start of final practice, confining him to the pits for the rest of the session, and his final qualifying run was compromised when he caught Verstappen at the start of his lap. He crept up the order early on the race but couldn’t keep Hamilton behind him. But unlike his team mate he made a one-stopper work and took a decent sixth.

Austria – Felt he would have qualified better had it not rained – a Williams weakness of late – but was promoted to seventh by Vettel’s penalty. He lost two places at the start and struggled for tyre life in the race, slipping back to ninth.

Britain – As last year, the Williams looked a handful in the wet and Bottas found it more of a struggle than his team mate. He spun at Club and went off again later in the race as he plummeted from sixth to

Hungary – Given the difficulties Williams usually have in the wet, reaching Q3 was an achievement. He made it past Hulkenberg at the start but lost out in the race to the end against Sainz.

Germany – Promoted to seventh on the grid by Hulkenberg’s penalty, but was unable to keep the place in the race after the team gambled on sticking to a two-stop strategy. It didn’t pay off: Bottas was struggling way before the end of his final 33-lap stint which allowed Hulkenberg and Button to capitalise. Given the rate with which his pace was dropping off over 15 laps before the end it is mystifying that Williams didn’t pit him again.

Belgium – Felt he could have beaten the Force Indias in qualifying had it not been for the software glitch. He was one of several drivers to miss out on a free pit stop by coming in under the Safety Car before the red flag was shown, so having been fourth he was twelfth when the race resumed. His pace and tyre preservation over the final stint was much better than Massa’s and he took eighth.

Italy – Produced some brilliant laps in qualifying and his final one, where he found the six-hundredths of a second he needed to stop Ricciardo taking fifth place, was a gem. He also reaped the reward of taking the cooling vents off his helmet, which he reckoned was worth a thousandth. He was never going to keep Hamilton behind but he might have seen Ricciardo coming to deprive him of fifth, but he deserves credit for having the awareness not to turn in on his rival.

Singapore – Promoted to tenth on the grid by Perez’s penalty, he was hit by Button as both tried to avoid Hulkenberg’s crash on the first lap. He sank to the rear of the field and matters got worse when his seat belts came loose, forcing a lengthy pit stop. With temperatures rising the decision was taken to retire the car.

Japan – Said Friday was “straightforward” but neither he nor Massa were able to get the FW38 into the top ten shoot-out. After being dropped behind Massa through the pit stops he spent the final laps holding Grosjean at bay.

Malaysia – Owned up to an error with his engine settings in Q2 which probably cost him a place in the top ten shoot-out. However qualified 11th has its advantages, such as being able to start on new tyres, and Bottas took advantage of that to run a one-stop strategy. This jumped him ahead of the Force Indias.

United States – Beat Massa to eighth in qualifying but didn’t appear to have the pace to catch Hulkenberg. The pair collided at turn one in what was a racing incident, but it wrecked the day for both of them.

Mexico – Encouragingly inside the top ten during both Friday sessions and well ahead of Massa in qualifying. Despite slipping behind his team mate at the start he got ahead again but didn’t have the pace to catch Hulkenberg.

Brazil – Surprised and disappointed to drop out in Q2 after being beaten by Alonso’s McLaren and Grosjean’s Haas. He ran the intermediate tyres for longer than anyone else at the end of the race and impressively kept the show on the road despite slipping up on lap 59. Over the final laps he was on the pace of most of the front runners, but the chance for points had gone.

Abu Dhabi – After conducting engine and aero tests in first practice he got down to business in the second session and was quicker than both Force Indias. He couldn’t get more grip from the ultra-softs in qualifying and so went out in Q2. His race was a bit of a non-event: having made a good start a rear suspension failure ended his day.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #10: Bottas”

  1. Good timing for this ranking, and one I agree with. Particularly the “good-but-not-great” moniker which @montreal95 mentioned.

    I’m personally yet to see the spark of potential or stand out performance one would expect from a driver in such high regard as Bottas. Granted, he’s been extremely fast consistently and seems to perform to the limits of the car, but not beyond it, as great drivers so often can. He’s beaten Maldonado and Massa, but a driver like Hamilton is just the test he needs to get to the next level.

    1. Regarding standout performances, I think Bottas was spectacular in the wet weather qualifying for the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix. Third on the grid was well beyond the capabilities of the car…His result in the race, which was held in dry conditions proved that. If I remember correctly, he had not even driven at the track before practice on Friday. It’s a shame that the Williams in the V6 era has been so horrible in the wet.

      People may complain about the lack in number of such instances in Bottas’ career…but one moment of brilliance is all that it takes to realize someone’s potential. If he could do something like that once, he surely has it in him to do it again. ;))

      I like to believe that given the car, he has what it takes to challenge someone like Lewis. The consistency of Rosberg and the required speed as well. I hope he gets the Mercedes seat, so that time can tell us whether that’s truly the case or not…

  2. I can’t see how Bottas could possibly be below the two Force India drivers. Bottas outscored Hulkenberg despite being in a much slower car ever since Monaco (with Canada being an exception) and with just two races to go, he was still level on points with Perez.

    While Williams struggled for pace in the second half of the season, Bottas was still able to score points consistently. In the last 14 races of the season Massa only scored 16 points while Bottas scored 56. Not to mention his absolute qualifying domination over Massa. Bottas was the sole reason Williams was able to keep up with Force India until the very last race of the season.

    His podium in Canada for me was one of the most impressive drives of the season, given that both Mercedes’, both Red Bulls and both Ferraris finished the race with no particular problems for any of them and Bottas still managed to finish ahead of four of them on a strategy that barely anyone made work. His drive in Malaysia to finish fifth was impressive as well on a weekend when Williams barely had the pace to make it into Q3.

    1. @retardedf1sh Hulkenberg has had loads of retirements and unlucky finishes which have cost him 30-40 at least.

      1. Hulkenberg retired five times, his five best results give him 38 points, I don’t see how he would have managed to get the more points than that in the races he retired from races had he finished them. In Spain and Austria he was running outside the points when he retired and in the three races he retired on the first lap, Perez finished 9th once and 8th twice, which suggests that Hulkenberg wouldn’t have been much higher than that especially when Perez was usually better than Hulkenberg in races anyway. More realistic would be 10-15 points more.

        1. @retardedf1sh You’re right about Spain and Austria but in races like Singapore and USA, Hulkenberg would have had great opportunities to score well.

          A 7th or a 6th would have been highly possible in Singapore, given Verstappen’s horrible start and that he started ahead of Alonso, who ultimately finished 7th. Perez finished 8th only because he had to start 17th after the penalty he got in qualifying.

          Hulkenberg was in great form in the USA qualy and 5th in the race would have been a certainty (Thanks to Raikkonen’s and Verstappen’s retirements). Perez could only finish 8th because he was hit by Kvyat, dropping to the back of the field.

          Factor in his bad luck at races like Brazil, Monaco and Great Britain…I believe he could have scored around 20-25 points more than he ultimately did.

          But ultimately, it’s just a case of “what if”.

          Also, what makes you say that Williams was ‘much’ slower than force India after Monaco? I do agree that Bottas more or less maximized the car’s potential this season…but Williams was only slightly slower than Force India after Canada…and in terms of pure pace, faster in GBR, HUN and ITA…equal in Brazil and Mexico (They couldn’t adapt to the change in the conditions in qualifying in Brazil and scored less than Force India in Mexico because of Hulkenberg’s heroics. Perez was much faster than Massa but I doubt he would have been equally faster than Bottas, who finished quite a bit ahead of Massa.)

  3. Hulk is probably out of the question for Merc seat so I hope Valtteri gets it… He deserves a chance in the top team and it should be very interesting to see him next to Lewis.

    Keith, you have really difficult role to rank all drivers! Especially these first ten. Not envy at all :-).

  4. A well-motivated Bottas might beat his sometimes more brilliant but inconsistent teammate, so watch out!!

  5. So this is the driver they consider to be 2017 WDC?

    1. @jureo

      No. This is the driver that will support the 2017 WDC

      1. Good enough then.. Jenson Button to Williams then?

  6. @Toto, why pursue nr 10 driver? He’s got talent, is quick but Baku made it painfully clear he lacks skills in traffic. RIC and VES will have him for breakfast

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