Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Sofia Morales
Alfa Romeo are enjoying a very successful season so far, the team sitting fifth in the standings. While the designers deserve credit for doing a very solid job adapting the car to the new rules, the biggest applause must go to Valtteri Bottas for constantly delivering good results and bringing home substantial points for his team.
So how did Bottas go from being considered, by many, washed up at Mercedes last year, to one of the drivers of the season just months later? For starters, Alfa has given Valtteri something Mercedes never have: A multi-year contract. This may not sound significant, but it offers a feeling of security. As a result, the driver can be more relaxed, something that leads to better results, as opposed to fearing a mistake might cost him his drive next season, exactly what was happening with Bottas at Mercedes. Aside from this, Alfa have made Valtteri their number one driver, which not only means he can develop the car in the direction that’s preferable to him, but that he also doesn’t have to prove himself against his teammate. This is in complete contrast to what was happening at his previous team, where he was constantly compared to Lewis Hamilton, having to drive a car that was more suited to the seven time world champion.
Bottas’ talent shows in the championship standings, where Alfa Romeo are currently enjoying their best start to a season in the hybrid era, with 31 points from the first five races, Bottas being responsible for 30 of those. And he’s earned every one of them, with his excellent qualifying pace (he’s reached Q3 four out of five times so far) placing him at perfect positions to capitalize on anything that happens in the races. It was there, however, where Valtteri has struggled the most in the last few years. But not this season it seems. In fact, not only has Bottas’s race pace been noteworthy but, dare I say, it’s been even better than on Saturdays. That’s because, more often than not this year, Bottas has finished higher than his grid position which is something we’re not used to seeing.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing, however. Valtteri may have finished sixth in the opening race in Bahrain, but he had to fight his way there after a problem both Alfas faced at the start which caused Bottas to drop back and lose places. Things turned worse at Jeddah, when he was forced to retire with an engine issue. Imola was particularly bruising, having to retire once again, this time from Q3, which meant starting eighth for the sprint race. While he managed to salvage P7 on Saturday, a slow pit stop on Sunday’s grand prix then cost him time and yet more places. Despite this he still managed his best points haul of the year, 12 in total, and could’ve been on the podium. He would’ve also finished fifth last time out in Miami, had he not slid wide at the penultimate corner and let both Mercedes cars through.
Still, with that in mind, Bottas is still sitting pretty in eighth place in the driver’s standings, just six points behind Hamilton. With all his experience from his former employers it’s safe to say Valtteri can iron out his and his team’s mistakes as the season progresses. Time will tell if Bottas will keep his current form, but for now, at least, he can be proud of the work he’s put in. And who knows, maybe he and Alfa Romeo will achieve their target of finishing on the podium sooner rather than later.