Flying Finn Valtteri Bottas left Monza second-best, not only in terms of the result - finishing just over eight tenths of a second behind the race winner, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc - but his reputation, too.
On Lap 42 - Bottas snatched second from his teammate Lewis Hamilton, when he locked his brakes into Turn 1 - but was then unable to get close enough to the Leclerc, locking his own brakes.
The Finn less able to live in the Ferrari’s dirty air, his mistakes costing him a chance at the lead… to the frustration of the squad.
“Lewis can somehow manhandle the car close behind another and still stay close,” team boss Toto Wolff said. “It’s something Valtteri needs to work on.”
It’s yet another piece of homework for Bottas, as he seeks to mount a challenge on the F1 World Championship next year…the Finn confirmed as Hamilton’s 2020 teammate pre-Belgium.
There’s no doubt Bottas has lifted his game over 2018, when he became the first Mercedes driver to fail to win a race in the hybrid era.
The 30-year-old starting his 2019 campaign with a simple shakedown at Silverstone, Bottas the first to be strapped into the W10.
SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS,
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“It was nice to get a bit of a feel, obviously it is a shakedown so it’s not a proper test. But everything was working fine, already found some things that we can definitely improve for the testing, found some positives and everyone seems happy the car was running without issues. So yeah, good to be back at it.”
But while he was untouchable in Australia, and kept Hamilton behind him in Azerbaijan…he’s been unable to match that since, despite 11 podiums in the first 14 races, with a 63-point deficit to Hamilton.
With seven races before the end of the season, Bottas’ has to now unlock that consistent performance - that will make him a real thorn in the side to the soon-to-be six-time F1 World Champion.