Formula One: Valtteri Bottas could prolong Spain winners' sequence

Valtteri Bottas after his maiden victory winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in April.
Valtteri Bottas after his maiden victory winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at the Sochi Autodrom circuit in April. PHOTO: EPA

BARCELONA • Valtteri Bottas can add his name to one of Formula One's longest sequences by following up his breakthrough win in Russia with another triumph when the European season starts in Spain this weekend.

The Finn, fresh from his first Grand Prix victory with champions Mercedes in Russia, is the man most likely to become the 11th different winner in a row at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

No other track on the calendar has had such a variety of winners over the past decade, an ironic fact given that it is the most familiar to drivers from winter testing and was once famed for its predictability.

Last year, it was Dutch 18-year-old Max Verstappen who became the sport's youngest winner when he triumphed for Red Bull on his team debut, after both Mercedes drivers collided at the start.

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In 2012, it was now-departed Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado - a one-hit wonder - who handed Williams a surprise victory that remains their most recent.

The other winners were Nico Rosberg (2015), Lewis Hamilton (2014), Fernando Alonso (2013), Sebastian Vettel (2011), Mark Webber (2010), Jenson Button (2009), Kimi Raikkonen (2008) and Felipe Massa (2007).

Ferrari's championship leader Vettel and Mercedes rival Hamilton, 13 points behind the German, will start as favourites for Sunday's race and success for either could be an omen given that both went on to take the title last time they won in Spain.

But Bottas is the best bet to continue the streak of different winners in Spain even if he has yet to finish higher than fourth there.

"Getting that first win definitely gives me a lot of confidence that I can do it, even though I always knew I had the ability," he said after Sochi. "And now it's done, I just want to do it again and again."

The only other driver from the leading trio of teams yet to triumph in Barcelona is Verstappen's Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, but the Red Bull has lagged behind Mercedes and Ferrari on pace so far this year.

That will surely change, with the flow of upgrades set to speed up now that teams are closer to their factories, and Red Bull have some big chassis modifications in the pipeline with engine improvements still to come.

"I hope the upgrade will give us a chance to really fight with Mercedes and Ferrari or at least get us closer," said Ricciardo.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Bottas could prolong Spain winners' sequence'. Print Edition | Subscribe