Toto Wolff has told Valtteri Bottas that he won’t sack him this season no matter how badly he performs.
The Mercedes team principal was responding to Sportsmail’s revelation that some engineers back in the factory have lost faith in the Finn, especially having seen George Russell dramatically outperform him when he stepped in last season as cover for the Covid-afflicted Lewis Hamilton.
‘Unless Valtteri gets flu and can’t drive, he is going to be in the car,’ declared Wolff. ‘We see no reason to change. It is Red Bull who like to play musical chairs. No change expected.’
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has told Valtteri Bottas that he won’t sack him this season
Asked about Red Bull’s breezier approach to hiring and firing, Wolff added: ‘If you are not happy with your wife and you start to look for other ones, it is not going to improve the relationship.
‘I try to work on the relationship with my driver and achieve the best results with him before I start to flirt with somebody else.’
Bottas is fourth in the drivers’ standings after three races, with two third places and a DNF (did not finish), while Hamilton has won twice going into the Spanish Grand Prix.
Bottas is fourth in the drivers’ standings after three races, with two third places and a DNF
Clearly, Wolff believes the Hamilton-Bottas combination is good enough to deliver an eighth consecutive constructors’ title. That may be so — or not, if Red Bull deliver a sustained threat — but it amounts to a depressingly dull modus operandi.
It is ironic that the bigwigs spend aeons discussing how to spice up the action — such as introducing sprint qualifying — while the most attractive innovation sits right under their noses: Hamilton versus Russell, the older man seeking further validation of his enduring talents by trying to see off the thrusting youngster desperate to escape the leash.
Of all the things said and written about Bottas this week, perhaps the most telling was Hamilton’s vote of confidence in him.
‘Valtteri has been an amazing team-mate,’ said the seven-time world champion. ‘People need to give him a break.’ They were kind and loyal words, but unwittingly illuminating. For sympathy is the one emotion an elite sportsman does not wish to attract.
Wolff believes Hamilton and Bottas can deliver an eighth consecutive constructors’ title
Let’s look at the team-mates Hamilton has liked and disliked. He could barely stand Fernando Alonso or Nico Rosberg. But he could not get enough of Heikki Kovalainen or Bottas. Jenson Button was somewhere in the middle.
You don’t need to be Einstein to work out why they divide like that.
During press conferences alongside Hamilton and Max Verstappen, all talk of the title fight takes place around Bottas, as if he isn’t there. He has been battered too often by Hamilton’s heavy hands to take him the distance.
In practice yesterday, it was advantage Mercedes, with the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Sergio Perez a long way down in ninth and 10th places.
The order at the top was Hamilton… followed by Bottas. If that is how qualifying works out, the Briton will claim the 100th pole of his unparalleled career.