Nico Rosberg recently said that Valtteri Bottas has become strong and determined – and this year he can win the title. In Baku he has once again proven these qualities and won the World Champion 2016 high marks.
Nico Rosberg: “I enjoyed the race in Baku! At the beginning everything went well. Lewis started better than Valtter, it was interesting to watch their fight. Bottas did not give up and did a great job and beat his partner on the outside circuit. He deserved the opportunity to stay ahead. It's great that he defended his position and no longer plays the role of the second number. He really fights Lewis and stays ahead of us.
Then Valtteri had a great race. Lewis was a bit faster, but he couldn't overtake. He tried to do it at the end of the race – we saw an interesting duel. But when the cars are the same and the difference in speed is small, there's nothing to do.
Mercedes has a fast car. Great, Verstappen was almost as fast as Vettel. All the top teams rode at a similar pace. Vettel had a good race, took advantage of his chances for maximum and finished third.
Is Mercedes hiding its true speed? No They are fully unloaded in the qualification and in the race. Of course, at the end of the qualification it is a special mode of engine operation that allows them to play several tenths. They always work the maximum, they do not allow to relax. Of course, the race is trying to keep the engine as much as possible, but the results are so dense they have to constantly attack. They don't hide speed and now they have the fastest car. And they don't make any mistakes – neither the team nor the racers. They do everything right.
Max Verstappen could be a racer of the day because he had a great race. I like to see! He showed what the machine was capable of.
Leclaire also did not give up and did well. It's strange that after moving to Bus, he couldn't add. I do not understand why. It must not be able to heat the tires. I expected him to recover and climb the podium but failed.
Ricardo did everything wrong with braking when he tried to overtake. He wasn't clever when he didn't look back and saw another car was behind him.
My forecast for several other races. Mercedes will be strong, but Ferrari can have a chance in Barcelona – it depends on the tires. Vettel and Leclaire were quick in the pre-season tests. In Spain, they can get back and get pole positions. We all want it – it would be great.
It's interesting to watch Vettel and Leclaire because Charles is really fast, especially in qualifying. I wonder how long the team will be considered leader of Vettel and Leclaire – the second number. Or give them the freedom to persecute and stop helping Vettel. Sebastian feels pressure from a partner and shows it. Leclaire is a great racer, performs great. I think the most interesting thing is to follow him and Verstappen. Both are rising stars.
Valtteri finally began to show the pace of the champion. I once said that this year Valtteri has a chance to win the title. He became another. He hadn't been lucky before, but now everything is as he needs. This creates a different attitude and gives more confidence, which is very important in sport. Now Valtteri is confident and will continue to fight Lewis in the next races. She really has a chance to win the title – why not? He has great racing weekends and is no lower than Lewis.
It's amazing how things can change in the season. Last year, Valtteri was nowhere but in the winter he was able to tune into the new season. Maybe he learned from me how to focus on Lewis, but on himself and his work. That's important, and Valtteri does. Hats to him. "