With a shaky start to the 2017 season and a recent team order to allow Hamilton past at Bahrain, do you think Mercedes are looking for Bottas to act in a supporting role this season? The level of competition at the front of the Formula One field in 2017 is arguably the strongest it's been since Mercedes found regular race winning pace back in 2014, and with the combative Nico Rosberg now enjoying retired life away from the spotlight could the Mercedes mantra "let them race" already be a thing of the past? Rosberg's decision to call time on his Formula One career just five days after clinching his first Formula One World Championship shocked the racing world, and left his Mercedes team with a considerable headache as to who would replace the outgoing German come the new season in 2017. With few reasonable options on the table as to a partner for three time WDC Lewis Hamilton, and with the majority of the big name drivers already locked under contract for at least the next 12 months, Mercedes were left with little choice than to opt for the talented if understated Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, as apposed to the risker strategy of picking from the relatively inexperienced pool of up and coming driving talent sitting on the outskirts of the top teams in Grand Prix racing at present. Looking back now the signing of Bottas was the only real option for Mercedes at such a late stage in the year, with the quiet Finn under management from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Williams seemingly willing to let him leave the team for appropriate financial contributions from the German outfit, a safe pair of hands and steady head was just the ticket Mercedes were looking for after an occasionally highly fraught and emotional relationship between life long rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in recent years. However now that the first three races of the new season have been and gone, and Bottas hasn't exactly covered himself in the glory someone of his considerable talent and experience would expect, the question on everybody's lips is will Mercedes look to maintain their recent strategy of affording both drivers the same opportunity for success, or in the light of Ferrari's new found competitiveness and the ever present threat of a still misfiring Red Bull team how likely are the Silver Arrows to place Bottas in a supporting role alongside Hamilton in a bid to help the controversial British driver secure his fourth World Drivers Championship? Looking at the evidence of Bahrain, where Mercedes requested Bottas allow his more experienced team mate through to take the position, Bottas looks to be in a vulnerable place within the team at the moment. Allegedly signed to just a single year contract, the Mercedes drive is a big break for Bottas and with half an eye on securing a longer term deal in the future, under some stiff opposition from the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Riccardo and Fernando Alonso reportedly thought to be available for the 2018 season, will Bottas be willing to rock the boat at base camp and stake out his claim for equal footing within the Mercedes team? It has always been a Mercedes policy to allow both drivers to race hard against each other until mathematically impossible for one of them to win the World title, however now established race winning drivers no longer hold a position in both team seats, and with the Merc advantage not as strong as has been previously the case, will the team revert back to the standard clear number one / number two policy so successfully adopted by many previous championship winning outfits, and avoid the possibility of Hamilton and Bottas taking valuable championship points away from each other - as has previously been the case with McLaren in 2007 with Alonso and Hamilton and Ferrari the following season with Räikkönen and Massa? Where does this leave Bottas in his position with the team, and what will it mean for the Finnish drivers career in Formula One over the next few seasons? Well for starters Bottas is going to have to substantially up his game at Mercedes to at least match teammate Hamilton if he wants to avoid finding himself in the position to begin with, as of the opening three rounds of the season Bottas trails the number 44 by 23 points and hasn't show race pace suitable to contend with the top runners, bringing the decision deadline from Mercedes all the closer as the race at the front continues to hot up further. Bottas was once called a future World Champion by Frank Williams, and undoubtedly he is a talent capable of winning Grand Prix and on his day performing with the very best of the best, the question remains whether his time is indeed now, or if Mercedes can afford to give him the room to develop before the greater needs of the team have to be considered. For us fans watching at home, it should make for an intriguing spectacle over the course of the rest of the season. For more on the world of Formula One here at RaceDepartment check out our Formula One sub forum for the latest news, discussions and race reports. If you love motorsport like we do, then get yourself involved in the conversation and join in with this incredible community! Do you think Bottas is considered a support driver for Hamilton within Mercedes? Does the Finn have what it takes to ensure equal footing? Does having 2 number 1's in a team work in modern times? Let us know in the comments section below!