Are Mercedes' and Red Bull's second drivers underperforming?
It's been a difficult start to the season for Valtteri Bottas and Alexander Albon.
Rewind back to the first race of the season in Austria and everything was looking promising for both Alexander Albon and Valtteri Bottas. The Finn took pole and controlled the race to take his eight career win. As for Albon, he could have even won the race if it wasn't for another collision with Lewis Hamilton- and then a subsequent reliability issue.
However, since the season opener, both drivers have been well and truly outclassed by their teammates.
Bottas came into 2020 a determined man, finally hoping to push Hamilton all the way in the Drivers' Championship. He had recently finalised his divorce from ex-wife Emilia Pikkarainen and looked to be training hard before the start of the delayed season, even dubbing himself as Bottas 3.0. Yet after his impressive win in Austria, the former Williams driver is third in a two-horse race.
Bottas currently trails Hamilton by 43 points in the current standings.
Despite Mercedes' considerable pace advantage over the rest of the field, the 30-year-old currently sits third in Drivers' Standings. He has only beaten Hamilton once this season and has had to watch as his teammate has stormed to four victories in six races. Not only is the gap concerning for Bottas to his teammate, but also how he is behind Max Verstappen in the World Championship, despite the Dutchman being in the slower Red Bull.
Verstappen has outscored Bottas at the last four events, two of which have been aided by poor starts for the Mercedes driver.
On the other hand, Albon has also been struggling to put his car where it should really be. Despite two strong races to start the season, the London born driver has struggled since Formula One left Austria.
Although the Red Bull is comfortably the second fastest car on the grid, the Anglo-Thai driver has only finished in the top four on one occasion this season. Additionally, he sits behind Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Racing Point's Lance Stroll in the Drivers' Championship.
Qualifying has been a problem for Albon. Already twice this season he has failed to make it in to Q3 and regularly starts further down the grid than his team would be satisfied with. The 24-year-old has demonstrated his talents on Sunday's with some superb overtakes as he passes through the field. Nevertheless, the former Torro Rosso driver often leaves himself too much to do to get close to the podium.
Similarly to Bottas, the gap between Albon and his teammate will be of particular concern. Verstappen has outqualified and outscored his teammate at every grand prix so far this year. To add to Albon's woes, he was lapped by Verstappen at the last race in Barcelona.
Albon's highest grid position this season is fifth at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Red Bull have shown to be ruthless with their drivers, Pierre Gasly was demoted to Torro Rosso after just half a season at the team last year. There have been rumours that Albon may suffer the same fate, although team principal Christian Horner has dismissed this.
It could be argued that both Bottas and Albon have received unequal treatment from their teams in comparison to their teammates. Mercedes' strategy for Bottas at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was far from optimal and this has been the same for Albon at a few events this year, especially at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Fortunately for the Finn, the Silver Arrows have renewed his contract until the end of 2021, so he has another shot at the World Championship- especially as Hamilton's leads this season looks insurmountable.
As for Albon, there is uncertainty over his future beyond 2020. With Red Bulls merciless treatmeant of their drivers and Gasly's incredible performances in the Alpha Tauri's, this could be the Thai driver's final year at the team.