Valtteri Bottas aware of gap to Lewis Hamilton, working towards remedy
While Lewis Hamilton has won five of the six Formula 1 races since the summer break, Valtteri Bottas has only managed to step up on the podium twice - finishing the rest four races inside the Top 5.
As a result, the Finn has lost his chance to remain in the title fight, with now the only option is to fight for second position - against Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel as Hamilton inches closer to win the 2017 title. The gap between the two drivers has considerably risen, of which Bottas and the Mercedes squad is aware off, as they work towards finding a remedy to fix it.
In Austin, Bottas finished 34.967s behind Hamilton, while he was 10.580s off in Japan. In Malaysia, even though Hamilton was second, Bottas was 43.251s off the British driver. The two podium finishes in Italy and Singapore, he was 4.471s and 8.800s off respectively, while the first race after summer break in Belgium, he was 16.456s behind.
The Finn is not enjoying the set-up of his car, which doesn't suit his driving style. Niki Lauda also admitted that Mercedes needs to give Bottas an easier car to drive. "I’ve been able to pinpoint quite well and there’s been some races where I’ve definitely struggled more than the others. Some have been quite positive," said Bottas.
"I think there was a lot of positive things, even to take from the last race, even though the end result was far away optimal – but yeah, it’s all about details, as always in this sport. Some things with the driving style, some things with setting up the car, which I’m getting, learning all the time. That’s why I really believe that I can get to a good level again before the end of the year."
Elaborating more on his troubles, Bottas added: "I’ve been struggling to find the optimal set-up many times, sometimes going in the wrong direction, myself. Some tracks, with this car we have, the way it needs to be driven has been arguing with my natural driving style so I’ve had to change some things with my driving style and that doesn’t happen overnight.
"If you think about it, if you need to change your golf swing, you just can’t do it like that and be natural about it and not to think about it too much. So yeah, there are multiple things: how to manage the tyres, preparing for qualifying laps and especially during the race I’ve been struggling a little bit more with overheating the tyres.
"But we have been working on every single issue we’ve spotted, always managed to improve those, step by step, been getting stronger. I think my pace in the last race was actually very similar to Lewis before I struggled in the second stint with… various reasons for that so that was positive. So like I said, aim to continue the hard work and to continue to get better and better and quicker and hopefully can finish the season strongly. "
The situation for Bottas isn't helped by the fact that Hamilton has stepped up his game hugely post the summer break - showing his experience in the team and with the car. "I think he’s been really on it all year but especially after the summer break," he started.
"He’s been consistently getting everything out of the car and being able to set it up right for each track, for each condition. That comes from experience but also hard work and he definitely deserves all the credit for his results this year."
Even though Bottas' has signed up for Mercedes in 2018, but with just the one-year deal, it raises questions over his longevity with the team considering the German outfit's junior Esteban Ocon's progress with Force India.