Valtteri Bottas Reborn

Jim Kimberley
5 min readApr 8, 2022


The 2022 F1 regulation change has already brought plenty of unexpected surprises to the sport this season. Haas have scored more points than they mustered over the past two years combined, Ferrari appears to be the team to beat, and Mercedes have slid from the power unit to have to the one to avoid. Its why rule changes are always so hyped up in the years preceding them — the order can and often does reshuffle wildly.

While it’s a little bit of a lottery for the drivers to know where they will end up with their limited impact on car development when F1 introduces new rules, there’s one driver who looks like he’s somehow in a better place than we’ve seen for years, despite a relative demotion — Valtteri Bottas. Bottas has stepped out of Lewis Hamilton’s shadow at Mercedes to be the lead driver at a team for the first time in his career. It’s a role that has brought the smile back to the Finn’s face as he adjusts to life at an Alfa Romeo team that seems delighted to have him.

Bottas’ F1 reputation took a battering in the five seasons he stayed with Mercedes; there’s no denying it. Before, during his Williams years, and particularly when he was a regular podium visitor after the last regulation change in 2014, Valtteri looked like one of those drivers who you would think could be a championship contender if only the right circumstances arose. Then, when Nico Rosberg left the sport, that chance opened at Mercedes, and it was time for him to show the world what he could do.

Unfortunately, that championship-contending seat was alongside Lewis Hamilton, who had got himself comfortable on the other side of the Merc garage over the previous four years. The sheer number of records that Hamilton holds in F1 is evidence of the skill that Bottas had to contend with. But every racing driver has to think that they are the greatest — if not, they might as well pack it in and go home. So, to lose out to his teammate every year during their partnership is a bitter pill to swallow.

Some drivers might struggle to find the motivation to continue if that had happened to them. Imagine seeing someone you work with just consistently outperform you for half a decade despite you having the same equipment, training, and opportunity to succeed as they do. So, in some regards, it is a wonder that Valtteri continued signing those one-year contract extensions for as many years that he did, knowing that he would certainly continue to be there as a prop to help Hamilton take titles.

Like his Alfa predecessor Kimi Raikkonen, many new fans will not even remember when Valtteri was battling better cars in the Martini-liveried Williams to beat out Ferraris and Red Bulls that were often quicker on the race weekends. Hell, until he moved to Mercedes, Bottas had not been beaten by a teammate and even outperformed the more vastly experienced Felipe Massa in each of their three seasons together. And, may I add, that’s the same Massa who was one corner away from besting Hamilton to the 2008 world championship.

I do not believe that Bottas holds any resentment toward Mercedes, but I bet there is quite a smirk when in his helmet when he sees that he’s lining up alongside or nearby to his old team when sitting in an Alfa. It will feel like vindication for him to be impressing so much in these early races of 2022 — showing the F1 world he never lost the potential from those Williams days; he was just never treated equally.

Had he received more than a one-year extension to let him focus entirely on racing and not if he had an F1 future, perhaps he could’ve had mounted a championship challenge. Considering his obvious comfort level and competence this season with a two-year Alfa contract under his belt, there really could be truth to that theory. Bottas, to me, looks like the man I was impressed by in 2014, but with eight years more experience in the sport to make one formidable driver.

We are not going to see many — if any — podium trips from Bottas as we have in recent times, thanks to the field spread being so Red Bull-Ferrari weighted, but Valtteri is a prime contender for the best of the rest award behind the big three, I think. He is a man reborn with the team leader role and knowledge that he is in F1 next year, and we may well see the best Bottas to date in 2022.

F1 drivers have the most fragile egos, even though they are competing at the level most of us can only dream of. When their head drops, their performance drops, too, and it can be a downward spiral — look at Daniel Ricciardo’s time at McLaren. However, I am starting to sense that Bottas having a team looking to him to lead, not at his teammate, is helping his self-worth grow again. As Alfa believes in Valtteri, Valtteri believes in Valtteri. And do you know what? I believe in Valtteri, too.

Originally published at on April 8, 2022.



Jim Kimberley

A tall man, living around the world, watching fast cars