Ex-F1 driver Gerhard Berger believes Valtteri Bottas’ ability to return to form will be key in the 2021 title race.
Red Bull were tipped as a genuine threat to Mercedes in the build-up to the 2021 season and so far they have certainly delivered, with the Austrian-owned outfit leading the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships heading to Round 7 at Paul Ricard.
With both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton failing to score points at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Verstappen retained his four-point lead in the Drivers’ standings over the Briton, although Sergio Perez claimed victory in the other Red Bull to give them a 26-point buffer over Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.
Arguably the biggest concern though for Mercedes was Bottas, who endured a torrid afternoon in Baku on his way to a P12 finish.
Mercedes cost him a potential podium finish in Monaco after a failed pit-stop, but Azerbaijan was all Bottas’ doing as he struggled for pace throughout the race weekend.
And with Perez now enjoying a major breakthrough in the form of his first win for Red Bull, Berger said Bottas must now step up again and make the difference for Mercedes.
“The team-mates are very important,” he is quoted by grandprix.com as having told F1-Insider.
“That’s why Perez’s win at Baku was such a good result for Red Bull, because it strengthens Perez and builds his self-confidence.
“Even before Verstappen’s retirement, Perez was a great help to Max. That’s exactly what Red Bull needs.
“I don’t know what is happening with Bottas but he has to find his form again.
“Because one thing is clear – the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen will come to a head and Perez and Bottas will play an important role in that.”
Meanwhile, Nick Heidfeld, who competed in Formula 1 at the same time as Hamilton between 2007 and 2011, believes Bottas is currently having to compete against the best version of Hamilton to date, such is the pressure being applied by Verstappen.
“Hamilton is feeling the pressure from Verstappen and really pushing, that’s why we are seeing probably the best Hamilton of all time,” he explained.
“It’s normal that even very good racing drivers like Bottas then have a problem.”