The strong start Valtteri Bottas has had to the 2019 Formula 1 season is predominantly down to his mental strength, according to former Mercedes boss Ross Brawn.
Bottas has won two of the opening four races and been on pole position twice to teammate Lewis Hamilton’s one, with a fastest lap ensuring he is leading the drivers’ championship by a solitary point. After the Finn’s victory in Azerbaijan, F1’s managing director of motorsport says his former team is operating at an impressive level but reserved special praise with the way Bottas is performing alongside five-time world champion Hamilton.
“It’s never been done before,” Brawn said. “Four one-two finishes in the first four races of the year is an incredible result and it sets an incredible standard for this season.
“Congratulations therefore to Mercedes who are showing once again this year that they’re not prepared to rest on their laurels. And well done too to Valtteri Bottas, who has started the season in fine style, with two wins and two pole positions and he definitely deserves to be leading the championship.
“Valtteri has managed to raise his game to fight against an extraordinary champion in Lewis Hamilton. I have seen for myself how a driver can suffer, consciously or not, from being in the same team as a truly great champion and Lewis is one of the greatest we have seen. It can be incredibly intimidating and cause a driver to fall below their true ability. Getting out of that mindset can be difficult and takes a lot of effort, especially on the mental side.
“Valtteri has managed it and he has shown grit and determination in the first four races and especially in the way he has taken the fight to Lewis in qualifying has been really impressive.”
Mercedes’ main rival has been Ferrari but a number of mistakes have hurt its challenge so far, with Charles Leclerc crashing in qualifying in Baku. Brawn says Ferrari got its strategy right having qualified on medium tires, and says the signs are still promising from the 21-year-old despite his error.
“The decision to try to qualify in Q2 on the medium tire was the right one in my opinion, because on the softs, Mercedes had shown they had a better race pace on Friday afternoon.
“If Charles had managed to get ahead of them in Q3 — and there was a chance of that — and then run a long first stint, as he went on to do, then he would have been in with a good chance of finishing at the front.
“Unfortunately for him, despite a strong climb up the order, he finished fifth, for the third time this year. And I doubt that taking an extra point for setting the fastest race lap would have cheered him up. However, even after this race, he bears all the hallmarks of a driver on the way up, destined for great things.”