Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has lauded Valtteri Bottas’ team player traits amid a difficult and luckless Formula 1 season for the Finn.
Bottas started his second year with Mercedes on a sound note and looked solid in the opening few rounds being right in the mix to not only challenge Lewis Hamilton but also Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
But luck wasn’t on his side after his chances of a win in Baku blew with a puncture and later on in Austria with a mechanical failure. He now sits fourth in the standings with 171 points, three away from Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
The Finn has been relegated to a support role to help Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title and also – if possible – aide Hamilton in finishing ahead of Vettel and the Ferraris in his quest for the fifth title.
Wolff extended Bottas’ contract for another year amid the troubles he is facing with his junior drivers Esteban Ocon and George Russell. The Austrian has full faith in Bottas’ capabilities which he has demonstrated with Mercedes in a short span of time.
“For every racing driver, that’s a very difficult situation to be in because everything you dream about and everything you work for is winning the World Championship,” said Wolff. “When you realise you’re not in the hunt any more, that’s very difficult to handle.
“But Valtteri has shown that he has the speed, the talent and the work ethic to win in a Mercedes. He has always been a team player and that is one of his greatest character traits. Valtteri could have won races this year, but the odds were against him.
“However luck isn’t just a one-way street; and I know that Valtteri has every ingredient it needs to win at this level. He just needs to keep working hard to improve and trust that the tables will turn for him.”
While Bottas will race with Mercedes in 2019, Wolff hasn’t ruled out keeping Ocon and Russell in supporting role if they don’t get a seat with any of the teams, keeping the longterm future in mind.
“There are many good drivers who merit a drive in Formula One, both young ones and more experienced ones, but at the moment cockpits are a limited commodity,” he said. “Both Esteban and George certainly deserve to be in Formula One.
“We are still working on options and will carefully decide what’s best for them. If that means having to play the long game, then we will continue to prepare and develop them.” Only Williams, Haas, Force India and Toro Rosso remain to confirm their line-up.
Among them, the only real possibility for either Ocon and Russell to get a F1 seat is with Williams which will have at least one seat empty for Force India-bound Lance Stroll – if they keep Sergey Sirotkin.
[Listen: Toto Wolff on F1 Beyond The Grid]