Although the final contract has not been yet singed, both Bottas and Mercedes agreed on the principle terms for their partnership to continue for at least one year more after the current season. After a visit from Ola Kallenius, the Mercedes CEO during the Austrian GP, the decision has been made that the line up will remain unchanged for 2021.
With the Bottas deal already done, now Mercedes has a clear path to begin the talks with Lewis Hamilton, who has not yet signed a new deal but is expected to remain at Mercedes as well.
In an interview before the Styrian GP, when asked about the chances of agreeing on a deal he said: “I really hope so. Obviously it's a very special season starting so late. So, the timing is not really relevant to other seats and we've only done one race. On the other hand there's no rush, but also yes, time will fly by quickly and as soon as we know it, it's going to be the end of the season. So yeah, hopefully we can do something with that and get that kind of out of my mind. As we've seen, if things drag on, it's never a benefit. So, we can learn from that. We'll be taking actions based on what I learned."
After the information about Bottas’ deal got out, it mean one less chance for Sebastian Vettel to find a spot for 2021. But what exactly are the pros and cons of such a short, one-year deal both for Mercedes and Bottas?
Well, when it comes to the pros, it is obvious that Mercedes most likely will keep its successful duo for one more year. If Lewis Hamilton will win his 7th title this year (and equal the 7 World Championships of Michael Schumacher), there is of course a very high chance 2021 will mean an 8th Championship, because next season the cars will remain almost the same as this year. Keeping Bottas means for Mercedes a strong number 2 in the team, someone who can deliver points and if needed in any way, shape or form, help Hamilton to reach the championship record that has been never established before. Additionally, if for some reason the pace of Lewis is not optimal (like, for example, during the Austrian GP), Bottas is capable of bringing the points home. Having him on the team also means a potential motivation for Lewis, to perform his best. Another one on the list of pros is obviously a seat for another year for Bottas, which allows him to not worry so fast about the future steps as it might be the case for some. Although the season of 2020 is considerably short compared to what we have in normal circumstances, the Fin has more time to plan his future and see what road exactly he wants to take: does he want to stay with Mercedes? Is there a possibility to stay with the team beyond 2021? Is he gonna explore other options available? Since his new contract will end with the end of 2021, Bottas will join some of the other drivers on the market, who’s contracts will be ending as well. He then can decide and see what possibilities he has when the time comes.
What are the cons? Well, there are three considerable downsides to the one year deal between Bottas and Mercedes. The first one is: we could have had a young talent in the Mercedes seat by 2021. Obviously the talent in question here is George Russell. Although theoretically Russell still has a contract for 2021 with Williams, that season could have been a great time for him to jump into a top seat, to get acquainted with it and gain experience for the seasons afterwards, such as 2022 where we will deal with new cars and regulations. Keeping Bottas in the car blocks the way for the potential future drivers to enter the team, but it also seems like a logical thing to do: Bottas is ensured to bring points race to race, when having a rookie in the team means more risk, possibility of scoring lower amounts of points or some “unnecessary” problems. It would be a great thing to see Russell alongside Hamilton, as he could for sure learn to great extent from the 6 times world champion, but we’ll have to wait for the possibility of such partnership a little bit longer.
Second one is: although I have just mentioned that one of the pros was him keeping the seat for longer and not having to worry so much about the future, it can be also considered a minus in this situation. Why? The situation regarding the drivers market by the end of 2021 will be tight, with contracts of many other drivers ending during that time. It will be down to his performance that will decide if Mercedes will keep him for a longer time, if he’ll go to another team or if he will not make the 2022 grid at all. Last one, although more of an abstract one is simply a lost chance of seeing a partnership between Hamilton and Vettel in the same team. Although obviously such partnership is highly unlikely, because as a team you want to collect as many points as possible and eventually only one driver can be the World Champion, many of us have wished for such a duo at Mercedes. Maybe there’s a chance for such thing after 2021.
Leaving Spielberg with 80 points in the bag, Team! 💪— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 13, 2020
A brilliant job from everyone at the track and back at home in Brackley and Brixworth! ❤️ Now let’s go again this weekend! pic.twitter.com/ykAj1q2NBa
Would Bottas be capable of winning a championship, even in 2020? Everyone has their opinion and can decide for themselves what they think on that matter. Since joining the Mercedes team in 2017 Bottas has won 8 races: 3 in 2017, 4 in 2019 and 1 in 2020. He was able to secure the 2nd in overall championship during the 2019 season which so far it’s been his personal best, but during his partnership with Mercedes he’s been as far as 5th in the standings, during 2018 season. Overall Bottas is a very consistent driver, but to challenge Lewis Hamilton he will definitely need more than that, even more than the Bottas 2.0 or 3.0, terms that have been jokingly coined by the team with the start of every season. Will Valtteri stand a chance against Lewis this year? How will his career further develop over the course of this and next season?
So far the only possibility is to sit back and keep a close eye on the future events.