Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, Esteban Ocon and Sergio Czech Pérez at Racing Point … If one asked a Formula 1 driver who is your greatest rival to beatwe could bet that the vast majority of them would say he's their teammate.
Many times the rivalry between the two riders far exceeds that between one team and another. Mercedes Benz has it very clear after experiencing firsthand what happened between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. In their first year, as competition between them increased, the Silver Arrow he saw how his drivers were overtaken by Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari).
It was three years of tough internal battles until finally, after beating Hamilton and winning the 2016 championship, Rosberg announced his retirement. “I did not expect them to have breakfast together, because they did not like each other, but the relationship was terrible. They were so bad that they didn't say hello "Niki Lauda recounted after leaving German.
At the time, Toto Wolff (Mercedes CEO) admitted that I was confused in believing that internal competition would bring out the best in everyone to fight for the title and that is how, despite having names like Fernando Alonso or Vettel himself to occupy that empty seat, he chose Valtteri Bottas.
With a low profile and good results, the Finn switched from Williams to Mercedes in 2017, and after doing so the director of the German team explained: “Nico made us face a very complicated situation and it was difficult to find the right driver, but we took the time to decide and eventually we got the right man for the team.
“In the past I always believed that a very fierce rivalry between teammates would be good for the team because they would put pressure on each other. I think the lesson I learned is that it probably isn't. It takes two top-tier teammates to push each other in the car, but the rivalry should not move off the track ”, he had indicated in dialogue with Motorsport after the arrival of Bottas.
Nico and Lewis' second season was the worst of all. Their bad relationship had been in evidence after the Monaco GP, in which the German made a very controversial maneuver that damaged the classification of his teammate, who was shaping up to get the "pole". Finally Rosberg ended up winning on the Monegasque circuit nine seconds behind Hamilton.
That, added to the controversial episodes that starred in the Barein GP and the Spanish GP, determined how coexistence would be from then on. To top, a crash at the Belgian GP was going to put the icing on the cake to that season.
The team learned after that bad experience and this time the situation improved, even the team itself Hamilton confessed that the harmony that was handled with the arrival of Bottas was much better and that was key to obtaining his fourth title in Formula 1.
“I feel like I have the best working relationship I have had with any colleague I have had so far. No games, no cheats. There is complete transparency and I like that ", recognized the F1 website.
“The dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis made us develop the car in a very efficient way and it allowed us to win both championships, so I do not regret for a second the situation we are in today, ”said Wolff for his part.
However, something ran in the Finn's veins, understood his role and followed it perhaps even against their own will: “There have been a lot of difficult things to accept, in terms of what kind of role I was going to have in the team.. I am more of a support pilot. It's difficult, the only thing a pilot is looking for is to win the race, "he explained in the documentary about Netflix Drive To Survive.
"When Lewis beat me it's like he stabbed me"said the former Williams driver, adding: "Being on the same team as Lewis is sometimes a hassle, because he's too fast."
"Bottas has been a gentleman for letting me pass," acknowledged Hamilton after winning the 2018 Russian Grand Prix. “Valtteri has been a true gentleman. I can understand how difficult it was for him, that he deserved the victory. It has been team work ”. A strategic action that would hardly have been accomplished if his partner continued to be Rosberg.
“A difficult day. A good result as a team, but personally it has been quite difficult. Lewis is fighting for the championship, so we always have a plan, ”Bottas shared his mixed feelings after that race.
Even at the Silverstone GP 10 days ago there were several who considered that the Finn stifled their ability to benefit the British: “He had the best start. He was next to Hamilton and took his foot off the gas at the first corner. Not! Keep your foot in! That was his chance to win the Grand Prix, right there and he slowed down, ”exclaimed former driver and commentator Jolyon Palmer on the Checkered Flag podcast. BBC 5 Live.
“We are strong as a team and we will not allow a relationship between drivers to deteriorate. to the point of having a negative effect on the team. After Nico and Lewis, we'll make sure we get yellow and red cards. But we are far away, it is not the case, ”Wolff acknowledged in 2019.
“I think that being part of such a great team is the opportunity that every rider wants to have, because it also allows you to reach the next level if you work hard and use all the tools you can within the team. It's hard work for me on the track to try to beat him, but I wouldn't want to have another teammate, ”the Finn highlighted earlier in the season.
Bottas' work, in silence and respecting the tasks assigned to him, gave the team very good results to the point that recently renewed his contract with Mercedes and he will continue to be the second driver for 2021 behind Hamilton.
Looking at him in the distance the equipment works perfectly, increasingly stretching the distances with Ferrari, their immediate historical pursuer, and showing that they are the most powerful team on the grid above the ever-thriving Red Bull.
But if one approaches and gets into the bowels of the team you can see that there is an elite athlete who he maintains an internal struggle between his desire to compete and his duty as a “support pilot”. Since his arrival at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas has witnessed his teammate win the last three world championships while he took third, fifth and second place.
Rosberg fought that battle tooHowever, he seemed to have taken another path: “It was 20 years of racing that were reduced to that moment (Abu Dhabi GP 2016). To achieve or not to achieve my dream? To be or not to be a world champion? It was a delicate situation. After crossing the line the first feelings were relief, then joy came. At that moment I understood that I had achieved it ”, he explained to the F1 channel two years after beating Hamilton and being crowned in the top flight.