A former F1 champion has bizarrely attacked Bottas for qualifying behind his rookie team-mate for the last two races despite the Finn’s excellent form so far in 2022
Image: Getty Images)
Valtteri Bottas has been told there is “no excuse” after being out-qualified by rookie team-mate Zhou Guanyu on the last two race weekends.
The Finn has enjoyed a good debut season with Alfa Romeo so far, leading the team well and securing results that have catapulted them from ninth to sixth on the grid. He is also eighth in the drivers’ standings after amassing a very respectable total of 46 points from the first nine races.
He has done the heavy lifting while Zhou has acclimatised to the world of Formula 1. The young Chinese racer has not had a lot of luck with scoring points, finishing 11th twice and having to retire from three other races due to mechanical problems beyond his control.
But his form is getting stronger all the time, and he has proven his hot lap credentials by outqualifying the vastly more experienced Bottas in Azerbaijan and Canada. The Finn went on to finish higher in both races, but still former F1 racer Jacques Villeneuve feels he should be embarrassed after being shown up by his rookie team-mate.
“Zhou has never been on this track and he didn’t get much mileage either, so no, Bottas this year should never, ever get beaten by Zhou,” said the 1997 world champion. “It’s just not on. Not a driver of his experience that has won so many races. This should not happen, mostly on a track that Zhou has not been on.
“I don’t know if it’s because he got used to not beating Lewis [Hamilton] and that set him back a little bit. Then he had an easy beginning of the year. He was looking good, running at the front, destroying Zhou, and suddenly, Zhou is showing that he is quick. We’re not seeing the best Valtteri that we could, or that we should, right now. He should be easily ahead of Zhou.”
Bottas has been emboldened by his strong performances since joining Alfa Romeo. He is no longer in Hamilton’s shadow at Mercedes and is enjoying his role as the team leader, and even feels he might possibly add to his 10 career F1 wins in an Alfa Romeo in the future.
“We’re not at the peak,” the 32-year-old told Motor Sport Magazine. “I can see that and the people know it, that we still have so many things that we can do better. At least we know for a team like this, with the budget cap it makes things so much more equal.
“So you know as a fact that there’s opportunities, like in the past if somebody had £200m more budget than you, it would be a bit of a mountain to climb. But now it’s realistic that we can do better than this and in the future we can score podiums, we can even fight for race wins. I truly believe that, but that needs a lot of work and that’s why I’m here.”