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Why Hamilton brilliance could draw unfair criticism for Bottas

Why Hamilton brilliance could draw unfair criticism for Bottas

F1 News

Why Hamilton brilliance could draw unfair criticism for Bottas

Why Hamilton brilliance could draw unfair criticism for Bottas

Two races into the new F1 season and Valtteri Bottas has already had his fair share of misfortune and criticism.

The lethargic pitstop in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and the incident with George Russell at Imola are factors beyond the Finn's control that have led to Bottas already languishing 28 points away from team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

With 21 races still to run this season, there is plenty of time for the tables to turn but already there is concern around Bottas' lack of pace relative to Hamilton.

But is this justified? GPFans Global takes a look at why Bottas should not be disregarded just yet.

Why does criticism for Bottas persist?

Rewind to the delayed start to the 2020 F1 season. Bottas, again aiming to put a halt to Hamilton's domination of the sport, rocks up to the Red Bull Ring, qualifies on pole and wins the race.

It was not the first time we have seen him open the year with a victory. The problem came with the fact he only won once more, nine fewer times than Hamilton's total of 11, and level with Max Verstappen despite being in a far superior car.

Add to this the disastrous final few races of the year, where Bottas strung together a run of 14th, eighth and eighth between Turkey and Sakhir, eyebrows begin to raise.

Despite running on pace with the leading pair of Hamilton and Verstappen in Bahrain this year, the faulty pitstop ruined his chances of taking the battle to the front-running duo.

Then, a poor qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix landed Bottas only eighth on the grid as Hamilton stormed to a surprise pole.

This snowballed into the horrorshow that became his Sunday at Imola. Compared to Hamilton's not-quite-perfect performance, Bottas' showing paled in comparison.

Pressure of the last-chance saloon

It is no secret by now that Bottas' place at Mercedes is under threat from the very man he collided with last time out.

George Russell's rise since joining Williams in 2019 has been meteoric in terms of performance, without the headline results to support his potential superstardom.

A positive performance in Sakhir last year when filling in for Hamilton led for calls for Bottas to be ousted for this season, but Mercedes remained loyal.

The anguish Bottas must have had when realising Russell was bearing down on him in the Williams must have been immense.

With this potentially the last opportunity for Bottas to clinch that elusive title, the pressure on him has never been greater.

We have seen in previous years he can become slightly fragile in such situations, with Turkey again a prime example of him perhaps crumbling under pressure.

All fair enough, but is there a mitigating factor as to why Bottas is off the pace?

Is Hamilton dragging a bad car to good results?

Coming into the season, Red Bull was labelled as the favourite after a stunning pre-season in which Mercedes struggled for car balance and overall pace.

Two races in and it is hard to argue with the notion the RB16B is the fastest car on the grid. Both Verstappen and Sergio Perez qualified well at Imola, and the latter's drive in Bahrain from the back perfectly showcased the strengths of the car.

Mercedes, meanwhile, has seemingly yet to come to grips with the cuts to downforce that came with the safety regulations imposed between last year and this.

Perhaps the low-rake disadvantage is becoming a broken record throughout the F1 paddock but there is definitely something to be said for the struggle to find car balance across the weekend.

Aston Martin has found no form since the winter break, even threatening legal action at one point over the Imola weekend, such is its annoyance with the changes.

So it is possible, then, the Mercedes is difficult to drive which could explain Bottas' performance in Italy last week. Much like Ferrari last season, a driver can be excused for driving to the limit of the car's capabilities without reward.

But when you have your team-mate winning races and stealing pole positions in the same machinery, the situation can look worse than reality.

Hamilton is one of, if not the greatest driver F1 has seen. Bottas cannot be criticised for not being Hamilton's equal. He has shown on numerous occasions, especially in qualifying, he can challenge the British driver.

The sheer speed and confidence Hamilton possesses looks to be outperforming the W12 more than Bottas is underperforming in the same machinery which would heap a mound of unfair criticism onto him.

All that remains now is to find confidence in the car and build himself back up. If he can secure positive results quickly, his championship charge and, perhaps, his Mercedes career may not be over just yet.

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