I’m fascinated by what it takes to achieve success in Formula 1. It’s one of many causes I proceed to comply with the championship so intently. So after I see a number of the unfair feedback about Valtteri Bottas, it’s worthwhile giving some perspective primarily based by myself expertise.
I do know what it’s prefer to go up towards the very best driver of a technology – in my case, Ayrton Senna – and to have labored with very robust team-mates all through my profession. From Johnny Herbert to Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell to Nigel Mansell and, in fact, David Coulthard.
None of them have been sluggish. All of them very fast, dedicated and succesful Formula 1 drivers.
It could be very simple to speak about somebody who’s world champion, successful on a regular basis, and to then criticise their team-mate. It’s a straightforward comparability, however one which avoids the massive image of what it’s prefer to be one-half of a championship successful group. I received two world championships partly as a result of ‘DC’ was such a robust team-mate.
When McLaren put me of their automobile alongside Ayrton Senna it was a unbelievable alternative, however a large problem. Suddenly it was my expertise versus Ayrton’s expertise. And what’s ‘experience’? Is it the variety of laps you’ve gotten completed, or your potential to review the info, or how intelligent and clever you’re about what’s occurring inside the group?
Actually it’s about all of these issues along with the dynamic within the group; the small issues that, on their very own don’t appear vital, however added collectively means you aren’t fairly the place you need to be. I realised throughout my profession that every mechanic, engineer or knowledge technician labored in particular methods, and within the intense surroundings of Formula 1 even a small change in personnel can impression on efficiency.
Changing the human dynamics might be as vital as altering the set-up of the automobile.
People at all times ask me about out-qualifying Ayrton in my first race at McLaren, though not many will ask Valtteri concerning the 17 instances he has out-qualified Lewis. For some motive my achievement was considered troublesome, whereas for those who drive a Mercedes it’s simple.
I solely went up towards Ayrton for 3 races, however it taught me a lot. About how a lot I needed to study, not solely when it comes to understanding the way to get the very best efficiency out of my automobile, but additionally to grasp how the group works, the way in which wherein a group focuses its efforts.
During my profession there have been instances when, for instance, the tyres weren’t working for me and my team-mate was out of the blue seven-tenths faster. Even with softer tyres on, you end up doing the identical instances as on a set of hards. It’s an terrible feeling, so that you begin taking a look at all of the temperatures, pressures, automobile arrange – looking for what your team-mate is doing.
I do know what it feels prefer to put your team-mate’s settings in your automobile after which discover it very troublesome to drive, besides the lap time seems to be half a second faster! That’s all a part of the training curve. It teaches you to develop into open minded concerning the man on the opposite aspect of the storage, and to develop into much less egocentric.
This group work between drivers is such an vital side for a high group. Mercedes is aware of higher than anybody what can occur when you’ve gotten two drivers preventing one another in a approach which might be damaging. Part of Valtteri’s job since he joined them was to work beside Lewis, push as arduous as doable, however maintain the communication flowing.
Generating a constructive ambiance within the group and pulling in the identical route is an important high quality. It’s vital if you end up the dominant group, however turns into important when you’ve gotten powerful competitors or, as will occur in 2022, a wholly new set of laws arrive. Regulations which depend on the 2 drivers working more durable than ever to provide the group a stable base to work from.
Only one team-mate can win the world championship, and to try this they often must win extra races than everybody else – this consists of beating the man sharing the storage with them. When you’re each in the identical automobile that battle is rarely simple. As a world champion you inevitably construct the group round you, leaving your team-mate with much more work to do.
When I used to be racing I used to complain on a regular basis, particularly to my supervisor Keke Rosberg. I feel it was a generational factor. I used to say this or that was not proper within the group, and Keke used to inform me to close up and put my foot down.
Now we now have a really completely different period, one in which there’s infinitely extra evaluation out there to the drivers and their groups. That has additionally introduced an awesome respect for the problem that faces drivers tasked with successful grands prix or supporting their team-mates.
To time a qualifying run with the intention to assist your team-mate, as Valtteri did in Silverstone when he gave Lewis a tow, or to provide approach throughout a race in order that the group’s technique might be maximised, shouldn’t be simple. Mercedes takes a very reasonable strategy, and Valtteri is aware of his job is to beat the group’s competitors, notably now that Red Bull and Honda have made a significant step ahead.
Since transferring from Williams to Mercedes I do know that Valtteri has by no means stopped pushing, studying and creating as a driver. He scored 9 podiums for Williams and helped them to 3rd on the planet constructors’ championship for 2 consecutive years, however he additionally realised Mercedes was on a wholly completely different degree. A really completely different problem.
When I moved from Team Lotus to McLaren it was an analogous expertise. I knew I used to be in the fitting place, with the fitting folks and know-how round me, so it felt like an enormous launch. However, while you be a part of a group the place the folks know the way to succeed, you’ve gotten a lot to study. Valtteri has taken the identical strategy.
As Lewis’s team-mate he has essentially the most formidable competitor beside him. It has been unbelievable to look at how calm, managed and decided Valtteri has remained, how arduous he has continued to work regardless of the problem – and simple criticisms. He simply focuses on attacking every weekend as arduous as he can, giving the very best of himself for the group.
There is a well-liked fantasy that successful grands prix is straightforward when you’ve gotten the very best automobile. That solely exhibits a misunderstanding of the problem.
There is nothing simple about successful in F1, whether or not twenty races for me or 9 grands prix for Valtteri. It’s even more durable when you’ve gotten a a number of world champion beside you within the storage.
For any group aiming to maintain a world championship-winning efficiency the diploma of concord and focus inside the driver line-up is a crucial ingredient. It is one motive why I’m sure Valtteri deserves better credit score for the job he has completed.