Bottas in WRC and Hamilton retiring to race bikes? What’s going on at Mercedes?

The Mercedes-AMG F1 drivers are casting their eyes away from the F1 grid, which is making for an interesting offseason. Valterri Bottas is to make a one-off WRC appearance, whilst Lewis Hamilton hinted at a future racing motorbikes. However, is this Mercedes playing a clever game?

Yesterday, Valterri Bottas announced that he would be taking part in the Arctic Lapland Rally event in Finland to kickstart 2019.

The Finn will follow a long line of countrymen to feature at the event, including F1 champions Keke Rosberg, Mika Hakkinen, and Kimi Raikkonen.

Kimi Raikkonen making his WRC debut at Rally Finland in 2009 Image: New Atlas

Bottas seems to be relishing the opportunity, despite the fact he has no previous experience of a rally car. 

“Being the race car driver that I am, you always go flat out whatever the vehicle you’re driving in.”

Then, later in the evening Lewis Hamilton posted a rather surprising Instagram story.

The five-time World Champion asked his followers: “Hmm, should I retire from F1 and go race bikes?:)”

Is Hamilton already planning his next career move? Image: Author / Lewis Hamilton Instagram

After Lewis Hamilton’s recent Superbike test, it appears more likely that he could have some form of involvement in bike racing in the future. 

WSBK rider Michael van der Mark commented that he spent most of the first day “trying to make him [Lewis] go a bit slower.”

(left to right): Michael van der Mark, Lewis Hamilton and Alex Lowes at Jerez. Image: Autosport

This may seem like a strange day in Mercedes’ offseason, and definitely is a break from the stereotypical F1 winter.

Typically drivers spend time with family, seeming to disappear from the world to focus on their private lives and secret development work on next years car. 

This rather busy offseason, in my opinion, is a masterstroke by Mercedes driver management.

Switching off and on again, whilst typically a worthwhile process for all human beings, is difficult for the racer.

Keeping those additional senses ticking over, might just enable the two Silver Arrows pilots to get in the 2019 car and feel more ready to go.

Hamilton and Bottas will come back raring to go Image: Basile Ph / FB Photo-Images

Additionally, it piles pressure on other teams. If Mercedes appear this lax about what their drivers can get up to, then maybe the team have another world-beater ready to light up the timing-screens straight out of the box. 

Most importantly, however, I think Mercedes have followed the philosophy that ‘A happy driver is a fast driver’

Bottas is key to the team securing another constructors championship, and if he is unhappy the chances of that happening rapidly decreases.

Drivers who are allowed to stretch their legs, and be free from the intense F1 paddock are able to return with a (sometimes) more focused mind. They realise the importance of rewarding the team that work tirelessly in striving for titles.

Although this is a risk in itself, it is one Mercedes are very keen to take.

The Happy Hamilton has smiled his way to demolishing the F1 field Image: Daily Express

Ultimately, I see no concern in the events at Mercedes. Bottas will enjoy his WRC cameo, most likely far down the time sheets but refreshed from an appearance out of Hamilton’s shadow. Likewise the spontaneous Hamilton will have kept his mind busy, and will come back in 2019 ready to challenge for title number six.

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