When Valtteri Bottas was confirmed to join Mercedes AMG Petronas for the 2017 Formula 1 season, it wasn't long before the inevitable 'Lewis Hamilton' question arose.

Not to say Hamilton doesn't play well with others, but his occasionally bitter dynamic with 'frenemy' Nico Rosberg over the last few years have written their own headlines.

In a sport where margins can be determined by thousandths of a second, mind games can end up being worth more on the track than set-up tweaks...

With this in mind, we consider why this could actually prove to be the big weapon in Bottas' armoury.

Valtteri Bottas has an extraordinary finishing record in four years of racing with just 7 DNFs in 77 races
Errors are few and far between

Almost the antithesis of his first team-mate Pastor Maldonado, Bottas is remarkably unflustered behind the wheel. Since his debut in 2013 he has accumulated a remarkably meagre 7 DNFs in 7 races... what is even more striking is that only two of those involved collisions, neither of which he was responsible for. Funnily enough, one of those was committed by Lewis Hamilton in Brazil 2013, the other unflappable Finn Kimi Raikkonen (maybe it takes Finn on Finn competition to bring out the claws).

Fans will point out Bottas was at fault for their contact at the start of the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix but beyond that it is rare to see him spinning off course, over-driving or crashing. With a more competitive Mercedes beneath him, this smooth style will surely serve him well.

The Finnish trait of 'Sisu' is strong in this one...
He embodies Sisu

It is a word that doesn't have a direct translation in English but 'Sisu' has become something of a fascination in F1 over the years since the days of Mika Hakkinen, with Nico Rosberg reviving the term in 2016 to explain how he was approaching his title tilt.

Wikipedia describes it as a 'cultural concept' through a combination of stoic, determination, grit and bravery... strong stuff and something apparently unique Finns. You only have to spend a bit of time with Kimi Raikkonen to recognise his take on it, but Bottas is arguably even more representative of what is quite an intimidating state of 'zen'.

Hamilton and Rosberg have been open about the psychological tricks they employed to keep each other on their toes, but if it took 'Sisu' for 'part Finn' Rosberg to ensure his well-drilled 'one race at a time' strategy work, Bottas with his sheer embodiment of this concept could make him incredibly difficult to crack even at his most vulnerable.

He knows Hamilton better than Hamilton knows him

Being an unknown quantity is something that can play massively into Bottas' hands this year. While Hamilton's reputation precedes him, with his fiery rivalries with team-mates largely being played out in public, Bottas has always remained rather unflappable and calm. Quite how he responds to the pressure of a championship battle and fights for race wins remains to be seen, yet it would take something particularly aggravating from Hamilton to break the Finn's ice-cool exterior.

Bottas is also yet to prove what he can do in a top car, making him all the more uncertain for Hamilton. Bottas has spent his entire F1 career with Williams, scoring nine podium finishes over the past four years, and has been lightning quick on occasion. But he's never quite had the chassis underneath him to challenge at the front on a regular basis.

It is worth pointing out that Bottas is arguably more of a threat to Hamilton than Rosberg was during their first season together at Brackley in 2013. Rosberg may already have won a race, but including his victory in China in 2012, the German had just seven podium finishes in F1 to his name before joining Hamilton; Bottas has nine. If Rosberg was able to turn from an occasional podium winner into a world champion, then why can't Bottas do the same straight away?

Bottas faces more than just Hamilton as a rival... it could be Alonso and Vettel too
Make or break for Bottas, regardless of Hamilton

Bottas has proven through his career he is able to soak up pressure and charge it into a positive result, making his one-year deal with Mercedes a force for good. Mercedes was keen to keep its options open beyond 2017, particularly with big names such as Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel being free agents for next year, but Bottas should have no trouble in proving himself in the team.

Multi-year deals can be dangerous things for drivers. They can ease the pressure somewhat, perhaps even lulling them into a false sense of security. So for Bottas, having just a single season to prove himself in F1's top team will be a form of positive pressure.

With the likes of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel coming to the end of their contracts this year, he knows full well this is an opportunity he can't afford to take for granted.

As such, regardless of who is on the other side of the garage, settling for second isn't a safe option.

By Ollie Barstow and Luke Smith



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