Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Written by Morgan Holiday, Edited by Harshi Vashee
On Monday it was announced that Valterri Bottas will be making the switch from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo for the 2022 season and beyond. He will be replacing Kimi Raikkonen, another driver to switch after being dropped by a bigger team. Coming from one of the top teams on the grid into a backmarker like Alfa Romeo wouldn’t be ideal in anyone’s eyes, but it may be the move that can help Bottas regain the confidence he has lost as the support driver to Lewis Hamilton.
For a driver in his ninth season of Formula 1, Bottas has switched teams a surprisingly few number of times, in fact before Monday only once. Four years with Williams and five years with Mercedes is the mark of a very steady driver. And certainly Bottas has been a very steady driver over the years, hence why he was signed by the reigning team champions for 2017 after Nico Rosberg retired. Since then, Bottas has played his part as Mercedes’ number two driver, helping the team to seven consecutive constructor’s championship wins, as well as helping Hamilton secure driver’s title after driver’s title.
But there have been doubts as to whether Bottas was what the team needed, especially in the past couple of seasons. Despite driving the championship winning car for four whole seasons thus far, Bottas has never won the driver’s championship before. That can be forgiven, as Lewis Hamilton has been all but unbeatable, but Bottas has only managed to come second in the championship twice in his time at Mercedes, in 2019 and 2020. Over halfway through the 2021 season he has only just managed to regain P3 in the driver’s championship from Mclaren’s Lando Norris, and everyone had been questioning his position at Mercedes even before rumours of his replacement started.
As a matter of fact, Bottas has lost his confidence as a driver due to having to constantly play second fiddle to one of Formula 1’s greatest drivers of all time. That, along with getting outperformed by his assumed successor George Russell in Sakhir last season, has caused both Bottas and Mercedes to lose faith in the Finnish driver. For a while it was assumed that when he was replaced he would simply leave Formula 1, because no one would want to sign him. But now, after rumours that both Alfa and Williams were after a contract with him, he has signed with Alfa Romeo and stays in Formula 1.
The question remains: What can Bottas do with Alfa Romeo? The answer largely remains to be seen, since the new regulations for 2022 mean that any team’s performance could go way up or way down. But let’s assume for the moment that Alfa Romeo’s performance stays mostly as is. What can Valterri Bottas do in a backmarker car?
Although faith in Bottas has gone down this season due to his inability to perform at Mercedes, it’s still true that he is a very talented driver with nine race wins, who earned his spot at the top team in Formula 1. What he lacks right now is not talent, but confidence, and a team who supports him fully and doesn’t force him to drop everything for his teammate. Alfa Romeo can give him that. While his teammate for 2022 is still unknown, Bottas will surely have seniority over whoever it is. All the drivers in the running, namely Antonio Giovinazzi, Nyck DeVries, and Alex Albon, are younger and less experienced, meaning Bottas will most likely have an advantage over them. Even with a backmarker team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some standout performances from him, Q3 appearances and points scoring along the way.
It’s exciting to hear that Bottas isn’t done with Formula 1 and Formula 1 isn’t done with Bottas.