Is Bottas A Title Contender?

Philip Boeckman

Valtteri Bottas' superb drive at the weekend's Austrian F1 Grand Prix, one he led from start to finish, has cemented his place at Mercedes and all but confirmed he has the quality to mount a serious title challenge this season.

The way Bottas has settled at Mercedes is incredibly admirable. He was always the likeliest contender to take Nico Rosberg's vacant seat, but it is no easy job taking the hottest seat in Formula One alongside the powerful and intimidating Lewis Hamilton. 

Make no bones about it; Hamilton holds most of the cards at Mercedes. He didn't want a top-class driver partnering him this season and threatening his status as undisputed Number One driver. He wanted somebody to come in and play a supporting role.

Bottas seemed perfect. A good, solid driver whilst with Williams, he has the makings of a good driver, but few believed he was world champion material. Signing a one-year deal, the expectation was that he'd have to prove himself worthy of a seat at the top table, perhaps winning a race along the way.

At the halfway stage of the season, he has gone above and beyond those expectations. Two race wins, his first-ever win coming at Bahrain, and a clutch of podiums has seen him keep tabs on both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, to the point where he is perhaps another race win away from really placing pressure on the pair. As it stands, following his second win of the season at Austria, the Finn is just 15 points behind Hamilton in second and 35 behind title leader, Vettel. Weighing up his season compared to Hamilton's, you'd have to say the Finn is outperforming his superstar partner. Hamilton has been sublime at times, but equally disappointing in others. He hasn't yet seemed to be fully recovered from the knockout blow inflicted on him by Nico Rosberg last season. He has the arrogance, raw speed and attitude to go and win every one of the remaining eleven races this year, but there's something holding him back.

For now, things are rosy inside the Mercedes garage. Hamilton seems genuinely happy for Bottas, especially at him securing his second win last weekend. However, will that change when Bottas really starts to turn the screws and starts competing for race and championship success? Hamilton has a history of starting off as best friends with his team-mate's before swiftly becoming enemies: see Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. 

It seems a certainty that Bottas will be here next season. Toto Wolff would have to be an idiot to dispose of him after the opening half to the season he's had. The resilient, run-of-the-mill nature of Bottas - he was practically stone-faced when celebrating his win last weekend - will get him very far in this game. Don't rule out a run at the title this season. What a story that would be. 

Philip Boeckman

Huge fan of @F1 and Motor Racing in general. I blog about anything and everything from the world of Formula 1