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I don’t want to get off on some half-baked philosophical diatribe here but during the Brazilian Grand Prix, I was intrigued by not only Lewis Hamilton’s pace but Valtteri Bottas’s lack of equalling that pace.

Bottas lost the lead at turn 1 and Vettel went on to victory with one undercut attempt by Mercedes. The focus seemed to be on the other Mercedes, with good reason, as Hamilton was storming to the front and had he had a handful of laps more, he may have won the darn thing.

the initial thought across my mind was that Bottas was clearly not on the same level as Hamilton. It seems that has crossed 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve’s mind as well.

“It was a great drive from Vettel, he won it at the start,” Villeneuve told Autosport. “He was aggressive.

“When you see what the Mercedes was capable of, you just have to look at Lewis and Bottas wasn’t up to pace. It’s embarrassing for Bottas.

“Lewis finished around three seconds behind him when he started from the pits.

“It’s embarrassing. He simply is not on the pace of Hamilton. It’s been like that all year. That’s his level. Which is a good number two.”

On the surface, it would seem that if you consider JV’s comments accurate and you were slating Nico Rosberg as a hack driver last year, you might think again about the German’s abilities. If, on the other hand, you think like I do, then perhaps there is a better explanation for the lack of pace from Bottas.

The team had a unique opportunity due to Lewis’s crash on Saturday. They darn near built an entirely new car with new engine, new aero, new everything and this was also set up for the much hotter temperatures on Sunday. This meant that the other car may have had a bit of a compromise setup for Saturday’s cold temps and Sundays hot temps. Lewis didn’t have to worry about that. All those new parts meant everything was the latest spec and it showed in his performance.

Not taking anything away from Lewis’s drive but as he charged through the entire field, Bottas’s lack of mounting a challenge against Vettel and Lewis nearly hunting Vettel down and passing him having come from way behind was a testament to a combination of elements.

Lewis’s driving was one of them, the all-new car and different tire strategy as everyone else and the car set up for a track that 60 degrees hotter than in qualifying. Had he qualified as normal, he would have had a high-mileage engine, same tire choice as everyone else and the car would have been set up for a compromise of temps as well as no new aero and wings. In short, he would have had the same situation that Bottas had,

The Ferrari’s were 0.5s faster in the curvy bits and the Mercedes were 0.5s faster on the straights. Vettel controlled and attacked when he needed to, Bottas didn’t’ have an answer as the two cars were relatively equaled and Kimi ultimately held off a charging Hamilton who ran out of tires.

Lewis was my drive of the day but not because he stormed back in an all-new car that was superior to Bottas or Vettel’s. For me, he was driver fo the day for his tire management. He started on an alternate strategy and managed to save his tires throughout the race until the very end when trying to get around a relatively quick Raikkonen.

One could make a strong argument for Vettel as drive of the race because going back to the 0.5s scenario, imagine having to get the middle sector right every single lap for 71 laps because if you don’t, Bottas goes by you on the long straights. This meant that Sebastian was at risk of losing the race in every single sector two. That’s pressure.

Hat Tip: Autosport

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Cavallino Rampante

    While I’m a Ferrari fan – you also have to consider that in Brazil being P2 on the grid is actually more of an advantage than having pole for the first corner, so I wasn’t surprised Vettel got the led there.

  • Rock or Something

    1) I first of all think washed up drivers should shut up, and if they want to offer a general insight, like ‘that surprised me I wonder what was up’ then great but not think they can explain what something inside a team twenty years after they did something entirely different with someone else means.
    2) If washed up drivers want to offer an insight maybe something positive along the lines of ‘Turns out Nico Rosberg was a very special driver we should’ve given him more credit’ would be nice.
    3) I agree with Todd Lewis was driving a different car
    4) Lewis flew threw the field past a lot of crap cars until he got to a Ferrari on wasted tires then couldn’t make any progress, in other words he ended up just like Bottas, behind the first Ferrari he encountered. You think Bottas couldn’t have passed Marcus Ericson as well?
    5) Let’s remember why Bottas is there – to NOT race against Lewis Hamilton, to be his little helper and collect points but don’t win. Most F1 drivers would never accept, and could not function in, that role. So it turns out the guy you get who’s willing to do it isn’t multi-world champion material? Why is this such a story? He’s the wingman, why are we on his case? Over the year he has been vastly more effective than Kimi Raikkonen in the same role at Ferrari. Why is everyone’s mouse so bent up and hurt over that?

    Bottas is a very good second tier driver who’s been hired to drive the second tier. He brings the car home, he doesn’t get in fights with the lead driver, he behaves in a workmanlike fashion. What the hell is so shocking when he turns out to be less than top tier? Shut your piehole JV and give your wife back her glasses and focus your scorn on your countryman who finished 10 places behind a retiree in last. Now THAT sh*t is embarrassing.

    • B52Rocklobster

      I vote for this for comment of the month!! Especially the last paragraph.

      JV is either trying to just be provacative to get some press, or he’s dumb. He should know that HAM’s setup was way different than BOT.

    • Salvu Borg

      Number 44 was not only driving a different car to the rest on the grid and that includes his team mate, but he was driving an advantaged car to the rest of the grid.
      All the cars he passed and that includes a red bull and the position he finished at after starting at the back safety car and all of which pushed him up 3 places in one go, was like nothing done before because when it was done before although done with a standard as raced before specification car it was all down to the car and not the driver! go ask his supporters.
      As to when he (44) came up to number 7, advantaged car and all. I was totally surprised witnessing how much better was number 7 through the middle sector which resulted in number 7 being able to keep number 44 at arms length, more so when a few laps earlier number 44 pit wall was telling him that his “short term requirement new specification V PU” had at his disposal 14 overtake boosts left for him to use. (OVERTAKE BOOSTS, means maximum fuel maximum power maximum deployment, in short, qualifying mode and or push-to-pass or push-to-defend mode). the number of overtake boosts is something that is a part of the projected life of the PU, which means that a short term requirement engine (max life two races) the number of boosts are at least double to a normal 4 race requirement engine.

      • Joe Jopling

        Jacques Villeneuve…maybe outspoken at times, but a washed up ex driver??? with his world championship and other titles…slightly better qualified than most of us to comment I am afraid….and for the record Patrick Head said this week that Bottas over the winter had to toughen up..I agree with them both
        If Lewis had a totally different car to Valteri…why did they not start him from the pit lane as well???

        • Rock or Something

          Because then he would have been in fifth back with Hamilton, instead of in second where he finished.

          • Joe Jopling

            Well you mean 4th for Bottas as Lewis would have been 3rd…as not finishing second for Bottas…they all move up one place….however its a good point you make…..which I hadn’t thought of

  • Salvu Borg

    There is no doubt the Mercedes number 44 was fast and most probably the fastest in the race. how could an already fast car not be so fast with the all of a sudden advantages over all the others on the grid afforded it/thrown at it. But as is usual with car number 44 its pace during the race was supercharged by the same usual people. It was not like its advance through the field from last place haven’t been achieved before by others by overtaking the same cars it did and that includes a red bull. Those usual people are disregarding the fact that a disadvantaged FERRARI number 7 had better pace in the middle sector leading to the long run up the hill to keep 44 at arm’s length.

  • peter riva

    Of course, you are right. A car designed and set up for that (unique weather) day. Nicely explained.

  • Paul KieferJr

    I don’t think Bottas really had that much of a chance, given that Ferrari made some serious changes and it worked out well for Vettel. It would have been, at the most, a 50-50 shot.

  • p1ngu

    I don’t think Bottas is anywhere near the level of the top two, and from the expression on his face after the race, he’s aware of the gulf. Sure, Lewis had new parts on his car which explains his storming through the field, but Valtteri never once looked like threatening Seb’s Ferrari, despite having a fast car.

    All of that said, I’d not call his performance embarrassing, or anything close to it, and if Jacques Villeneuve wants to level that accusation at anyone, he should start by having a long hard look at himself before he says anything. I seem to recall that he was replaced by Takuma Sato in 2003 because Honda were so fed up with JV’s lack of effort. And strangely, as soon as he went the team started to do better.