Finally, Valtteri Bottas broke Lewis Hamilton’s stranglehold on the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship by winning Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
Its good news for the sport because we need someone to rattle Lewis as he rampages to his record-equalling seventh F1 title, if not stop him at least make him sweat for it.
While Valteri bagged the maximum points, Lewis – after his and his team’s prestart gaffe – finished third and the gap at the top of the standings is, ironically, 44.
Nevertheless, the question will always remain: had Lewis and his crew not got the start practices wrong, and not gotten the 10 seconds penalty, would the #77 have cruised to victory?
Whatever the case this win should galvanise Valtteri, and if he is smart and super serious about this title campaign, then I suggest: go get Nico Rosberg in your corner, make him coach and let him be the water bottle carrier.
Now that would piss Lewis off mightily. After all, Nico did snatch a title from the Briton in 2016 and, before that he did trounce Michael Schumacher at Mercedes for three years in a row. The guy knows the way around legends of our sport. He is a gold-mine of strategy for Valtteri to tap into.
The problem is the Finn never took the helping hand Nico offered when they swapped places. The one-time World Champ rode off into the sunset admitting he did not have it in him to go toe-to-toe again for an F1 title, one was enough. Boxes ticked. And reinvented himself as an excitable YouTuber.
But, at the time, he did offer advice to his replacement which was turned down…
Now, after the Sochi triumph and to keep the momentum, Valtteri would be well advised to eat humble pie, give Nico a call, invite him over and spend the weekend before the Eifel Grand Prix somewhere remote plotting the remainder of the campaign.
I propose the following ahead of the next race in Germany:
- Apart from setting up a meet with Nico, is to get the world champ vlogger on his side of the garage. And by that, I mean inside it next to the #77 car, drinks bottle in hand, headphones to the cockpit. Now that would piss Lewis off. And thus beginneth the mind-games.
- Plot ways to get under Lewis’ skin at all costs and by all means, bugger the consequences.
- Start by posting on social media a selfie of you and Nico munching big juicy (real) meat burgers would be a good start.
- Also poo-poo Lewis’ vegan chain to add insult to injury. Maybe start a meme: “Vegan burgers are for pussies.”
- Print T-shirts with the slogan: “To whom it may concern: F@ck You!”
And wear it when you take a knee or don’t…
- Also start dropping well-chosen suggestions via choice media sources eg. “I am not sure why the #44 car is so quick.” Hint, hint, nudge, nudge.
- You could also winge a bit more; the greats all winge or winged a lot; too many to mention spring to mind. You winge too little and too softly, get on the social media horn and Sky!
- Moaning about the hot race suit was a good one. Maybe you can fling a real hot potato into the mix by asking when the black cars will return to silver? Is it Black Arrows now, or still Silver Arrows?
- The nice guy demeanour has to go, stop with the congratulations and condescending fist bumps, every time Lewis wins. Walk away, pissed-off when he wins or grabs pole. Make disgruntled noises about car disparity whether true or not.
- Never refer to Lewis as being fast, or better. Always refer to the #44 car being fast. Subtle but over time the message comes across.
- Spend an extra hour in the debrief just to piss Lewis off. I am sure with Nico they can concoct many more tactical mind games to mess with the six-time F1 World Champion.
- On the occasions you beat him, the first guy you seek out to hug in parc ferme is, of course, Nico with his selfie stick!
- Add to the piss-off-Lewis-list as much as possible.
You get the drift? Even if you don’t mean it, you have to be mean at it. Apologise much later if you feel the need. Or do a Nico!
What would a Schumacher, a Senna, a Nico, even a Hamilton do under your circumstances?
In 2016, when Lewis’ Merc expired in Malaysia it was blatantly suggested that Merc were favouring Nico, soundbites that the British media latched on to, questioning the whole Sepang engine failure affair.
Lewis knows how to play the game from the day he walked into the sport at the highest level.
A couple of decades earlier, Ayrton arrived on the scene and off-track simply out mind-gamed everyone he teamed up with, then delivered stonking performances on-track.
Schumi delivered stonking performances at all costs, all the time, with teammates playing the secondary role without choice.
What did Lewis do in his rookie year with Fernando?
In fact, when Valtteri ‘goes on retreat’ with Nico this weekend they should binge-watch the entire 2007 F1 season (available on F1 TV Archives) and watch how cocky rookie Lewis humbled an arrogant double F1 World Champion at the time.
Anything less and Valtteri Bottas will simply be reduced to a long-line of forgotten F1 wingmen who paved the way for a rival’s greatness.
In closing, the only other driver with a car capable of winning would be doing us all a favour (including Lewis) and lit the fire in his belly and make the difference between this title race fizzling out to a farce long before season-end or turning into an epic of 2016 proportions.
Either way, Valtteri is the only guy who can make it happen, with help from Nico.