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What next for Valtteri Bottas after Turkish nightmare?

What next for Valtteri Bottas after Turkish nightmare?

F1 News

What next for Valtteri Bottas after Turkish nightmare?

What next for Valtteri Bottas after Turkish nightmare?

Valtteri Bottas' Turkish Grand Prix can comfortably be filed under the heading 'Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong'.

Even the Finn described his race as a "disaster", spinning six times on his way to 14th, a performance that will likely have left him shellshocked even if the conditions across the weekend at Istanbul Park were atrocious.

For once, the Mercedes looked an average racing car, from the start of first practice through to the midway point of the race when Lewis Hamilton suddenly found grip and speed.

Whilst Hamilton sailed - literally it seemed - into the distance and a remarkable 31.6 seconds winning margin, Bottas was left floundering, powerless to prevent his team-mate from taking another dominant, and record-equalling seventh championship.

With Bottas the only driver signed to Mercedes for next season as of yet, what next for the Finn? How can he turn himself into a bonafide title contender in 2021?

What happened in Turkey?

The past weekend was a big opportunity for Bottas to prove his worth. Taking the championship from underneath the nose of Hamilton was always a long shot so really, the race was never about the title stakes.

Instead, it was a chance for Bottas to stamp his authority in difficult conditions which many suggested were suited to him given his Finnish rally and ice-driving connections.

But what could, and probably should have been Turkish delight for Bottas turned into a horror show as he made mistake after mistake. Six spins in total simply is not good enough.

The benefit of the doubt must be given for the first of those as the sight of a twirling Esteban Ocon crossing your path would be enough to make anybody jump on the brakes and go for a spin of their own.

Beyond that, Bottas had a nightmare. A punt on Ocon at turn nine left both stranded at the back of the pack - the Frenchman picking up a puncture to add to his misery - before further spins of his own making on laps 15, 16, 21 and 40 compounded matters further.

After the race, Bottas said he had "lost count of how many times I spun so it was like a survival". He further suggested the punt with Ocon led to a misaligned steering wheel, which has to be taken into some consideration.

But the most damning evidence of his struggles was the way Hamilton used what can be described as 'slick-termediates' to put half-a-minute between himself and the rest of the field in just 18 laps. That is the gulf in performance at the present moment.

But it isn't just Turkey that causes concern

You can't judge somebody on one race. Correct, especially in such circumstances as in Turkey. While you could regard Bottas' tribute to Felipe Massa circa Silverstone 2008 as a one-off blip, you cannot ignore his shortcomings in recent times.

At the mid-point of the season, following the race at Mugello, this writer backed Mercedes' decision to re-sign Bottas for 2021 on the basis that his early-season performances were strong and that he had suffered from a few instances of bad luck.

In fairness, he repaid the confidence with victory in the very next race in Russia. Game on for the rest of the championship.

Next up, the Eifel Grand Prix. Pole position. Fantastic! But then came the race. A good start and a fine battle with Hamilton saw him keep the lead.

Then the mistake followed. A big lock-up into turn one compromised his strategy with an early stop and allowed Hamilton through on track. The retirement was not his fault but the damage had been already done in terms of contesting the victory.

Portugal next and after a chaotic start on another slippery surface - much like Turkey - Bottas eventually found himself in the lead.

Again, a promising sight for both himself and the championship battle. Yet his pace once more fell away and Hamilton ended up the victor by 25 seconds.

What happened at Imola was sheer bad luck given the large piece of Ferrari stuck in the aerodynamic intricacies of his W11 that affected the car's downforce.

Nevertheless, the sight of him endlessly drifting off into the gravel at Rivazza was not a good look when already swimming against the tide.

Throw in what happened in Turkey and the 44-point gap that existed following Bottas' win in Russia has ballooned to 110 points in just four races.

Ahead of what may be the last season of Mercedes dominance next year, it is vital Bottas finds form again in the closing three grands prix of this campaign, as Nico Rosberg did in 2015 when he won the last three races before taking the title in 2016.

What does Bottas need to do?

It seems every year when Bottas performs well in the season opener, we are introduced to 'Bottas 2.0' or '3.0' or whatever number we are on this season. Or maybe you need to grow a beard and eat porridge. The simple fact of the matter is nothing has changed year-on-year and if anything, the gap has widened this year.

Of course, he is racing against the driver that is now statistically the greatest the sport has seen, so I am not for one moment suggesting Bottas can overthrow Hamilton at a click of the fingers.

But he needs to stop getting bogged down in forcing the issue. He said in Turkey he was pushing almost too hard, too eagerly because he knew he had nothing to lose. It is a sign of desperation and it rarely, if ever, works.

Has every part of this season been a write-off? No. His qualifying performances have been superb and as mentioned before, the beginning of the season was strong.

Without some of the bad luck he has encountered he would be closer to Hamilton. But that is another issue in itself. He has not been denied a championship shot by misfortune.

Bottas clearly has talent. You do not win multiple grands prix without it. You do not match Hamilton pound-for-pound in qualifying either unless you have a natural gift.

So if Bottas can get his head down, finish the season well and then start 2021 with a bang then hopefully the momentum and confidence will be at his side.

Who knows, maybe he will be again telling those who it concerns "**** you" by the end of the season.

Before you go...

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