Valtteri Bottas has nine Formula 1 grand prix victories, 17 pole positions, 61 podiums. In partnership with Lewis Hamilton, he has guided Mercedes to record-breaking levels of success.

His future with the reigning world champions is in doubt with George Russell waiting in the wings.

So, what are the Finn’s options for 2022?

Stays with Mercedes

The Hamilton-Bottas combination has led Mercedes to four consecutive years of domination. Four drivers’ titles for Hamilton; four constructors’ titles for Mercedes, why change a winning team? Hamilton has often praised Bottas, not just for his on-track performances but for the way he conducts himself inside of the team

“I have more poles than anyone here so it’s not like I’m a slowpoke and so he’s doing an amazing job,” Hamilton said after qualifying at last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. “I think his result today speaks for itself and I don’t really need to say much more. He does his talking on the track and that’s the great thing about Valtteri.

“I don’t think there are many people that can do what he’s doing if I’m really honest. I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him.” 

Bottas has finished runner-up twice to Hamilton, third in 2017 and only finished fifth in 2018 after cruel misfortune cost him a certain victory at Azerbaijan, while team orders stopped him from winning in Russia and arguably Germany. It’s a formidable line-up that works for the team but also keeps Mercedes’ seven-time champion happy.

2794339.0064.jpg

While Red Bull has improved its driver line-up with the signing of Sergio Perez - who has rightly received praise for some of his performances in 2021 - Bottas has scored three more podiums than the Mexican in a less competitive car, and without his botched pit stop in Monaco, would be ahead in the standings.

Bottas is doing a good job as Mercedes' number two driver.

The Russell factor can’t be argued against though. 

Mercedes needs to look at the long-term - Hamilton is getting older and Russell clearly has the speed and talent to flourish in a top team. Red Bull gambled on Max Verstappen, Ferrari with Charles Leclerc, even McLaren did with Hamilton himself back in 2007.

The best choice for Mercedes is Russell; the best choice for Hamilton is Bottas - that’s the dilemma. Russell deserves a chance and it could even spur Hamilton onto new heights.

A return to Williams?

Williams poses the likeliest opportunity for Bottas to remain in F1. The Finn made his debut with the team back in 2013 and was instrumental in helping the Grove-based outfit finish third in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015 alongside Felipe Massa.

It’s easy to forget how good Bottas was for Williams and why he was linked with Ferrari as a replacement for Kimi Raikkonen at certain points in 2014 and 2015. Williams would need a replacement for Russell and Bottas fits the bill perfectly.

XPB_714049_HiRes.jpg

He has already confirmed that he would consider options outside of Mercedes.

“Obviously I want to get the understanding from the team, what is the plan, which driver they want in the other car,” Bottas said ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June. “Lewis is confirmed, the other is still free, so the team needs to decide. I need to have that discussion.

“But I also feel like I have many, many years still left in me. I enjoy racing, I love racing, I love F1, so it's definitely not done to go to another form of sport or motorsport in the coming years.”

Bottas would no longer be in Hamilton’s shadow, he’d be the main man at Williams as it looks to continue its revival. Whether he would want a switch to a team that has scored just eight points since the start of 2018 is another question, but he may be left with no choice. 

Replaces Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo

Bottas has emerged as an unlikely replacement for his fellow countryman at Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen’s performances have dipped in 2020, often trailing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi by some distance in qualifying - it could be in need of a new team leader. 

While Giovinazzi’s performances have improved, a driver of Bottas’ calibre would be a clear upgrade on what it currently has. Bottas alongside a talented youngster such as Callum Ilott or Robert Shwartzman would refresh Alfa’s line-up going into 2022.

Another factor is that Bottas worked with Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur during his 2011 GP3 Series title-winning season. 

Could they team up again?

Sabbatical

The 31-year-old may not be attracted by a switch to two of F1’s slowest teams over the past few years. A sabbatical from F1 is another option for Bottas should he not fancy running at the back.

Besides the aforementioned options, it’s unlikely there will be any other seats available on the grid for 2022. A year out could mean a few drives open up for 2023.

Although, F1 moves on so fast so coming back could be tricky given that you’re no longer in the public eye. Ask Nico Hulkenberg!

Valtteri Bottas, Arctic Lapland Rally,

Rallying

Since 2019, the Arctic Lapland Rally has been a favourite of Bottas’ during the off-season. He recorded a stage win and finished fifth overall in his first year. 

In 2020, Bottas again participated in the Arctic Lapland Rally, where he drove a Citroën DS3 WRC car and finished inside the top ten. A year later, he scored a class podium and finished sixth overall.

Bottas has often spoken about how rallying has helped sharpen his skill set for F1.

Ahead of the 2021 Arctic Rally, Bottas said: “I always knew that if I didn’t have any other commitments, it’s something I wanted to do again, because now I’ve done it twice before and for me it’s such a great challenge and so much fun. The roads are really beautiful and it’s just a nice, relaxed event. I really, really enjoyed driving on ice and snow and being out on the winter roads.

“I always feel that when I go rallying, it kind of backs up something else in terms of your driving skills. I think it’s important to keep your car control skills in a good shape during the winter break so for me, it’s certainly a benefit.”

It’s clear rallying is a big passion for Bottas and a potential career avenue should his time in F1 come to an end in December.