The stage was all set for Valtteri Bottas to shine at the F1 Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain on Sunday.
Seven-time Formula 1 champion and teammate Lewis Hamilton was out sick (COVID-19), and Hamilton’s replacement, George Russell, has not produced so much as a top-10 finish this year with Williams.
Instead of taking care of business, Bottas managed to barely beat Russell to pole on Saturday. And on race day, Russell clearly outclassed Bottas. Bottas finished eighth and led four laps. Russell finished ninth, but he led 59 laps and save for a botched pit stop was in line for the win.
Sergio Perez went on to his first career win for Racing Point.
Bottas was never really in control of the race on Sunday. To but it bluntly, Bottas tripped on his way to what was as supposed to be a sure podium finish that never came.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff isn’t sure why Bottas appeared so out of sorts.
“I have to discuss that with him and his team,” Wolff said in Bahrain. “But no, he didn’t shine today. Maybe the air is coming out after the world championship is over, but I don’t know.”
Former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld said Sunday was a crucial day in Bottas’ career.
“Bottas’ market value is now in free fall,” Heidfeld told German media outlet Sky Deutschland.”After a weekend like that, I wouldn’t surprised if he lost his seat.”
“Bottas shares have collapsed,” said fellow Finn J.J. Lehto, who spent parts of six years in Formula 1 and one in IndyCar. “George Russell is Mercedes’ choice for the future, clearly. Today, Valtteri simply faced a better guy. It’s too bad that Hamilton hasn’t had a decent teammate and a harder fight in recent years.
“It would be nice if he could get that now. I previously said that it could be Max Verstappen, but now that is also valid for Russell. Mercedes will definitely now be thinking about how to make a super team even better. Valtteri has had opportunities for several seasons, and at best he can rarely beat Hamilton. Valtteri has shown us what his level is.”
Wolff said it is possible that Russell will return to Hamilton’s car this weekend in Abu Dhabi for the season-ending race on Dec. 13.
“Lewis is feeling a little better today so if he has a negative test, he will drive. If not, it will be George,” Wolff said.
Mercedes F1 team principal Toto Wolff said, “A star is born,” after watching George Russell perform in Bahrain. Are you buying the hype? Jump into the comments section below and let us know your thoughts.
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