Bottas told to make way for Hamilton in Bahrain by Mercedes and Finn has to show he is no number two driver
VALTTERI BOTTAS was left seething in Bahrain having been asked by his Mercedes team to pull aside and allow his team-mate Lewis Hamilton though unchallenged.
Bottas, who let’s not forget started on pole, was told to finish third, as there were vague echoes of when Nico Rosberg received a similar unwelcome message in Malaysia in 2013.
Rosberg too was livid, as he came over the team’s radio with his “remember this one” message as Hamilton came home on the podium and the German was demoted to fourth.
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It would be wrong to suggest, certainly at this early point of the season at least, that Mercedes are displaying any favouritism towards the three-time world champion.
However, it would be fair to say that this weekend in Sochi is imperative for Bottas to get right.
So far the Finn was disappointing in China where he spun behind the safety car, dropped to 12th came home in sixth.
In Australia, he started third and finished third and, while he took pole in Bahrain, he simply did not convert that position.
Sure, the F1 season is only three races old, but whether he likes it or not, Bottas is under pressure.
He had big shoes to fill, as world champion Rosberg’s replacement and while he has been receiving positive comments from his Mercedes team [as of course you would expect], he has yet to give the impression that he can gatecrash the F1 title fight.
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He has also been receiving some nice words too from Hamilton, which reminds me of the old adage that which driver actually likes a team-mate who is quicker than himself.
To his credit, until now Bottas has handled the start to his Mercedes career in the right way. He’s worked hard to learn the team’s practices and procedures and, is genuinely a nice bloke that is liked by the team.
However, in Sochi this weekend it is imperative that he has a solid result.
When the chequered flag falls on Sunday, the season is 20 per cent done and teams will already be looking towards their driver line-up for next season.
While Hamilton still has another year to run on his contract, Bottas’ deal expires at the end of 2017.
But it is not all doom and gloom, for he’s gone well in Sochi before. He was third in 2014 and last season he was fourth.
However, he will need to surpass both those achievements this weekend, for a victory is vital if he is to prove he fully deserves his seat at Mercedes next season and shows he is capable of fighting Vettel and Hamilton for the world title.
If he doesn’t, then it will be increasing difficult to view him than anything other than an obedient No.2 driver behind his team-mate.