► Valtteri Bottas moves to Alfa Romeo
► George Russell almost certain to get his seat
► Curtis discusses the two drivers’ futures
It’s finally happened. Valtteri Bottas has announced a three-year deal with the Alfa Romeo team, thereby ending his contract with Mercedes – and his partnership with Lewis Hamilton. For the team at least, it’s been productive; since 2017 Bottas has helped them secure nine wins, 17 pole positions, four constructors’ and four drivers’ world championships – though none of the latter went to the Finn.
Although not confirmed yet, it’s almost certain that Bottas is making way for George Russell, a driver widely tipped to be at the same level as Verstappen and Leclerc – just without the machinery to match them. When he did get into the car in Bahrain last year, he impressed – and he’s obviously done enough to get to the drive. Russell further underlined his credentials more recently by qualifying second for the farcical Belgian GP.
How good is Bottas?
Drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen possess such talent, that it’s often hard to gauge how good or bad their teammates are. Is Bottas good for mostly matching statistically the greatest driver of all time – or is he simply showing how ordinary he is? In some ways, we’ll now get an answer to those questions, free from the shadow and gravitational pull of Lewis. He’ll likely be able to fight to the end of the season, too.
But Bottas’ career – or the Mercedes part of it – will have to go down as the wrong place and the wrong time. His qualifying record against Hamilton is nearly as good as that of Rosberg’s, but it’s on Sundays that he’s failed to keep up with his teammate – and that’s ultimately what stunted his championship challenges. Known as the ‘king of Fridays’ to some, Bottas was there or thereabouts until Sundays, where Lewis usually disappeared.
It’s this aspect of Bottas’ performance that has been most damaging, Sochi aside, his race pace and tyre management never seemed to be good enough to get him into the fight, and his race in Zandvoort this year underlined the issue.
At Williams, and with Mercedes in Bahrain, Russell has been extremely strong in qualifying, but importantly followed it up with equally strong performances on Sundays.
Still, Bottas will be a strong team leader for Alfa Romeo, particularly with the new regulations set to come into force next year.
Is Russell a good choice?
Bottas may not have the dazzling promise of Russell, but he’s a stable teammate and a known quantity when it comes to car development. Look at his results this year; and while not as close to the front as he could’ve been, Bottas has done a much better job than Red Bull’s Sergio Perez. That sort of stability would be ideal when moving into next year’s rules: although Mercedes and Toto Wolff obviously didn’t think so.
With Russell, Mercedes is finally contemplating life after Hamilton, though whether this move compromises their future success with the seven-time world champion remains to be seen…