The 2017 Title Fight: Three’s a crowd if your name is Lewis Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas’ second F1 Victory at the Austrian Grand Prix doesn’t only do him the world of good in retaining his seat for 2018, but piles some psychological pressure onto his teammate without having to resort to underhand tactics. 

Source: Mercedes AMG F1 Team Twitter

The best way to pile pressure onto the other side of the garage has to be through the purity of results on track, and Bottas has done this with a win by a whisker against the charging Ferrari of Vettel in Austria. One look at the driver standings shows that Bottas is now closer to Hamilton than the three-time World Champion is to the 2017 points leader Sebastian Vettel.

As the Championship nears halfway point, the headline-grabbing battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton gives little justice to Bottas’ performance this season. But momentum is with the Finn heading to the British Grand Prix, with 25-points in Austria and a stellar recovery drive to 2nd in Baku in his locker, the focus should be on the Mercedes drivers at Silverstone.

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Source: Mercedes AMG F1 Team Twitter

If he can get a result over Hamilton on his home turf, regardless of how the Silver Arrows weigh up against Ferrari, the team will have a difficult time in the preferential treatment department.

Of course, Hamilton could have been on for the win himself had it not been for the five-place grid drop for a gearbox change in Spielberg, and it might be that the championship is decided on these fine details. After the race, Hamilton was happy to pick up points, but ultimately dissatisfied with the drive.

“It’s not like the team aren’t on my side or they’re not working hard or I’m not pushing them hard enough, so all I can do is try to inspire them with the drives I had today.

When I go and look at the race pace, I was actually quickest so I actually had the strongest race…I don’t think the points really reflect this. There’s nothing else I can do, I just have to keep driving the way I have been and hope things get better.”

– Lewis Hamilton

Source: Lewis Hamilton Twitter

Bottas has already played down putting pressure on himself to frame his season as one of serious contention for the title, irregardless of the obvious picture that the Driver Standings paint.

“I don’t want to think about it too much, because like I said we are not even halfway of the year, and it doesn’t help anything to really start thinking about it.

By making a thing about winning titles, it doesn’t change anything. You need to go race by race, or really session by session, lap by lap.

That’s how it goes. I know as a fact that in theory, with the points, everything still will be in the fight. So that is good to know.”

– Valtteri Bottas

Source: Mercedes AMG F1 Team Twitter

If it had been foreseen before the start of this season that there would be two Mercedes drivers in the title hunt, the impression would have been another season of Mercedes dominance given the pre-season talk about a daunting gap in performance between Hamilton and Bottas. This perception was quite clearly incorrect, and the 2017 season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive title fights in recent years, with three drivers in real contention.