Second best to George Russell on the Brit’s Mercedes debut, Finnish pundits believe Valtteri Bottas’ “shares have collapsed”.
Russell made his Mercedes debut at the Sakhir Grand Prix, losing pole position to his new team-mate by 0.026s.
It was, however, still his first-ever front row starting position in Formula 1 and Russell put it to good use, taking the lead off the line.
Russell maintained that led, building up an almost five second advantage before Mercedes’ “colossal f*** up” during a pit stop under Safety Car conditions cost the British driver.
He dropped to fifth place as he had to stop again to get the correct tyres with Bottas, also affected by the “f*** up”, P4.
On the restart Russell made short work of Bottas before moving up to third and then second. Chasing down Sergio Perez for the win, Mercedes reported that he had a puncture and would have to stop again.
Despite stopping four times to Bottas’ two, Russell finished right behind the Finnish driver.
“Bottas shares have collapsed,” Finnish journalist Jyrki Järvilehto told Iltalehti. “It is pointless to explain this result.
“George Russell is the future choice of Mercedes.”
He added: “Again a bad start from Valtteri, and no fight against Russell after that. This cannot be justified in any way.
“Today Russell was simply the better guy.”
— Formula 2 Insider (@Formula2Insider) December 6, 2020
Järvilehto believes Mercedes should put Russell in the car for next year’s championship.
“The man has been putting in great performances with Williams’ scrap for two seasons,” he said. “He is insanely talented.
“A driver like him should drive in a top team.”
And he’s not the only one who feels that way.
Former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld says he “wouldn’t” be shocked if Mercedes decided to rather put Russell in the car next season.
“Bottas’ market value is now in free fall,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“After a weekend like that, I wouldn’t surprised if he lost his seat.”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff insists Bottas will be in the car next season but “maybe” Russell will replace him in the future.