Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur thinks Valtteri Bottas can emerge from Lewis Hamilton’s “shadow” at his new team next season.
Bottas’ five-season spell with the Silver Arrows is now officially over and, during that time, the Finn was unable to mount a serious title challenge of his own against a formidable opponent in Hamilton, a seven-time World Champion.
Moving from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo may represent a bit of a bump back down to reality for Bottas in 2022 and beyond, but Vasseur thinks the new challenge, coupled with a new role as team leader alongside rookie recruit Guanyu Zhou, has come at the perfect time in the Finn’s Formula 1 career.
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“For sure, it’s always a target to do a good job,” Vasseur said as quoted by GPFans.
“But the most important, I think, for him at the stage of his career is also to be in the centre of the team and it’s not an offence to Mercedes that he was always in the shadow of Lewis, but when you are in Mercedes, you are in the shadow of Lewis.
“When you’re in Red Bull, you’re in the shadow of Max and if you have a look under the drivers alongside Max the last 10 years or six years, it was Gasly, it was Albon, it was Perez. Perez probably did a better job last year than this season.
“It’s a very, very difficult position and situation to be the teammate of Max or Lewis and, I think for Valtteri it wasn’t too important to be considered as the leader at that.”
Bottas, who has picked out the best car and best race he has driven during his time at Mercedes, is also subject of attention elsewhere with ex-Formula 1 owner, Bernie Ecclestone, suggesting the Finn could have been used tactically by Mercedes to further extend the Safety Car period at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and ensure Max Verstappen did not have a chance at overtaking Lewis Hamilton for the World Championship title on the last lap.
Alfa Romeo will be Bottas’ third team since first joining Formula 1 ahead of the 2013 season. He spent the first four seasons of his career with Williams before moving to Mercedes in 2017 to replace the then retired World Champion Nico Rosberg.