Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer, who left Renault Through the 20 17 season, is part of the BBC team and offers Analysis and Insight from the point of view of the competitors
What a difference a season makes.
Back in 2018, Valtteri Bottas abandoned Melbourne after the opening race of this summer season on the back foot.
He had a major crash in qualifying, started down on the grid, and just about managed to salvage a few points with eighth place. His teammate Lewis Hamilton took pole with more than half per second and just lost the triumph as a result of a Mercedes strategy mistake.
And he ended the race with a defiant message to those who criticised his lacklustre performances at the second half last year.
“To whom it might concern,” he said over the radio on the slowing down lap.
It had been wild and cutting equal amount from the usually serene Finn, plus it will resonate for much longer than per week 5 before the next race at Bahrain.
Last season was an extremely torrid period for Bottas. He took no wins and managed just fifth at the tournament in an auto by which Hamilton scored 1-1 successes and tied up the title with just two races to move.
His first 1 / 2 of this summer season was decent – but unfortunate. He could have had a couple of wins had his luck been better and by the summer Bottas had the security of a fresh contract for 2019 in his pocket.
Had Mercedes waited to offer that contract for him, one wonders if Bottas wouldbe in this Mercedes chair at fine now because Esteban Ocon remains with no drive. The Frenchman was Melbourne appearing on as Mercedes reserve, because his odds of a fresh contract died last summer – after Bottas had signed his new deal.
Ocon is exceptionally talented and seen as a possible future champion for its Silver Arrows. Given how Bottas tailed off at this extreme fashion at the close of 2018, had the 2nd chair be undecided, Mercedes might have been enticed to eliminate Bottas after only his 2nd season with this team.
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At the moment, it seems that a fantastic thing that Bottas remains around in Mercedes. He’s had a lengthy, soulsearching cold temperatures and return a visibly different individual than he had been 12 weeks ago.
Bottas has much more edge to him than I’ve ever seen in his career. He has ever been a quick, talented driver, which is why Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff picked him directly from GP3 to get a chair in Williams back in 2013 and then gave him the major drive in Mercedes once Nico Rosberg retired by the close of 2016.
What he has lacked until now, though, is that last piece of struggle that winners must possess.
I said last year that he was regarded as something of a soft touch, and that has been epitomised with how he dropped into – and recognized – his wingman character for Mercedes, helping Hamilton to the title, giving up a grand prix victory in Russia at the process.
He looks like he has taken good advantage of this driver weight limit rising and put on a muscle mass, bulking out marginally. He’s also encouraging new hair on your face that ensures that, physically in addition to psychologically, he appears more rugged than the 2018 Bottas.
Off track, he appeared optimistic and chirpy at the paddock through the duration of the weekend, and on it he was clinical. The simple fact that he was distressed to take fastest lap says lots of.
When I had been in his own position, resulting in the race having not won over a year, I’d have been very happy to turn the engine down and make it home, taking the 25 points and receiving a monkey off my spine.
Perhaps not winning a race as a Mercedes driver supplies the press and everybody else a simple chunk of criticism to throw, that he could just simply have put a finish to.
The team were clearly in my manner of believing, telling him which they weren’t happy taking any chances.
The fact Bottas declared on the radio that he did not care and he had been going for it way was only one thing, but then to crush at the fastest lap over the penultimate excursion, with way of a healthier half-second perimeter, revealed he was not just all bark within the radio.
There is some bite behind it under the new rules this season it made him an extra point and the maximum 26 for your day.
Finally, there was his party – wild and cutting equal amount. The elation from the ordinarily serene Finn was fine to listen and watch.
Bottas has now fired a shot back at his critics. Not only was he aware of these as most drivers are, though they’ll put to a tough outside and assert never to pay any attention to the press – but he rose to the process and also struck straight back, with probably one of their most dominant wins seen for a little short time.
You may be certain Hamilton will bounce right back Bahrain – he is usually so good when his back’s against the walls, and Ferrari is likely to be wanting to silence their critics with a strong display following their lacklustre weekend.
There are 20 races to proceed, the true pecking order hasn’t even begun to show itself onto a Melbourne circuit that’s unique and unpredictable in equal amount.
However 1 thing is clear – Bottas’ wing man days are over for now. He’s at the 2019 season to acquire.