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Wolff hints at Bottas departure

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23/07/2021

Admitting that George Russell is being considered for 2022, Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff drops broadest hint yet that Valtteri Bottas could be moving on.

Though Lewis Hamilton has agreed a new two-year deal with Mercedes, the identity of his teammate in 2022 (and beyond) is yet to be confirmed.

While Valtteri Bottas, who joined the team in 2017 following the shock retirement of Nico Roberg, has been retained on a series of one-year deals, there is growing speculation that the German team needs to try something new.

Though Hamilton has made no secret of his desire to retain Bottas, George Russell well and truly staked his claim in his one-off outing for the German team while replacing the seven-time world champion in Bahrain last year.

Though Bottas has proven to be an ideal "wing man", other than his lack of consistency, many seek him merely as a foil for Hamilton - in the Rubens Barrichello mode - as opposed to a challenge, far less a threat.

Speaking in the wake of Sunday's race, when Bottas once again followed team orders to the letter, Wolff dropped the broadest hint yet that it may be time to freshen-up the team's line-up when he admitted that should the team opt for Russell it would be his responsibility to help Bottas seek a decent alternative seat.

"If we were to come to the situation that we wanted to give somebody else a go, then it's not only my relationship with him but also my responsibility that he has a great future," said the Austrian, "because he deserves that.

"He has been the team mate of the best Formula 1 driver of all time and that is not always very easy to shine, but he's fantastic," he added.

"Valtteri has ticked all the boxes that we needed to understand," said Wolff, when asked if Bottas might yet be able to convince Mercedes to retain him, "not only recently but also before.

"It is more of a strategic decision whether we stay with the current line-up or whether we go more bold next year," he added.

"But we're going to sit down with the drivers, with both of them, because George is a Mercedes driver, and then discuss and then come up with a decision.

"Lewis is okay with both scenarios," he added, according to F1i.com, "and understands the pros and cons that speak for Valtteri and George. Lewis has never tried to influence the decision and he has no preference as to who should be in the car.

"He likes the relationship with Valtteri, and we know it too," he continued. "But he never said that he would like this or that best."

Wolff has previously said that the decision will be made over the summer break, ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Over the last 24-hours there has been speculation linking Bottas with Alfa Romeo, while previously it was claimed that he might return to Williams, though whether either option might be considered a "great future" for the Finn surely only he could say.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Cobra Driver, 26/07/2021 10:10

"When I was racing, I would have given my left ..... for a teammate like Bottas. If he leaves, let's hope he lands with a team worthy of his talent.
"

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2. Posted by copy_dude, 25/07/2021 15:33

"Pitpass writes: 'Though Bottas has proven to be an ideal wing man, other than his lack of consistency . . . '

'Lack of consistency.' I think Bottas has consistently done rather well . . . maybe this season a little raggy for different reasons . . . Doesn't he hold some kind of record for 2nd place finishes in a season?

We always compare Bottas with Lewis and really, he is both an almost flawless driver and undisputed No 1. Other 'No 2s' we could mention don't come close . . . Horner always complains he is always racing 2 cars with 1.

I don't see it as a given that George would be challenging Lewis for wins every outing and his starts are a concern. Rosberg put himself through all kinds of mental and physical hoops to get close . . .

Alfa for Bottas . . . oh dear . . . I can't believe he wouldn't do a better job than Ric, Perez, Ocon . . .
"

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3. Posted by Oil Leak77, 25/07/2021 14:57

"George Russell will need to agree to Mercedes unequal opportunities programme. I hope Red Bull have spoken to George already. He needs options now, not to be kept hanging on."

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4. Posted by kenji, 25/07/2021 2:30

"@ Endre...Thanks for the comment. You make some interesting points there. My guess was that the recent contract signing by Hamilton would've included terms giving him 'numero uno' status. Remember that they have invested mega mega millions on Hamilton and they are entirely dedicated to him winning an eighth WC. A record most likely never being beaten. I simply don't see them putting that goal in jeopardy by hiring a young hotshot who could upset their attempts.!!! Mercedes have stated that 'they' are free to race....I think that is a load of old garbanzos. Bottas has obviously been given a playbook and he performs to this to the best of his ability. Hamilton has, and continues to have, a protected position in the team. As for Russell joining Red Bull...well that's just poking the bear IMO. Doubt whether it would've ever been contemplated. Wolff would've seen to that."

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5. Posted by Endre, 24/07/2021 20:42

"@kenji I am not sure Russel could be or will be held back. Doesn't matter what Hamilton wants, Mercedes had no choice but to hire Russel, as Red Bull would have made the move on him and they could not afford that. Hamilton is the past, Russel is the future. Who would jeopardize their future to protect the past? Besides, all Russel needs to do is to put himself in a favorable position in the early races of the season (which I am sure he'll do) and then the team has to protect whoever is in the lead and with the best chances ..."

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6. Posted by kenji, 24/07/2021 3:57

"@Young Slinger... To answer your question. A few reasons, one being longevity. Hamilton is past it by comparison to, say, Verstappen. Two, Hamilton will be protected from any challenges by Russell as i said in my earlier post. Bottas is playing from Wolff's hymm sheet as witnessed last Sunday. He promised to be 'more selfish' and drive for Valterri this season and what does he do, rolls over like a big softie. If that's being selfish!!!As I said I most likely am quite wrong but time will tell, I hope."

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7. Posted by Young Slinger, 23/07/2021 18:21

"kenji, if that is the case, then why not keep Bottas? Surely a challenging team mate would spur Lewis on?"

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8. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 23/07/2021 16:45

"Bottas is a good driver, no mistake. But he's not on the same level as Lewis. That's not an insult, because no other driver on the grid is. Verstappen comes pretty close. Russell may be getting to that level. Alonso and Vettle used to be on that level. It's a tough thing being the teammate to drivers like Hamilton, Verstappen, and when they were in their prime Alonso, Schumacher, etc., because you really don't have the ability to challenge for a WDC even if in a top car.

If he's going to stay in F1 I'd like to see Bottas land somewhere like Aston Martin (Vettle really should retire, but I wouldn't be at all upset if Stroll got displaced) or McLaren (I like Ricciardo, but ...) if he's going to be dropped from Mercedes. A return to Williams, unless Dorilton has something revolutionary up their sleeves, would be insulting (I can't believe I had to say that - but the truth is Williams is a backmarker team now and embarrassing to watch anymore given their history). Alpha Romeo makes little sense given they're a Ferrari aligned team. That said, Raikkonen is overdue to retire and Giovinazzi has never been especially impressive.

But if Merc is going to drop him I can't help but think that maybe WEC or something besides F1 would be a better move. And, really, the same is true for Vettle, Raikkonen, Alonso, and even the likes of Stroll, Gasly, and maybe Ricciardo."

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9. Posted by kenji, 23/07/2021 15:01

"If this is true and Russell does get the drive then I would feel pretty certain that there will 'restrictions' placed on what he can and can't do. With the possibilty of Hamilton winning eight WC's it is difficult to accept that Wolff would put that possibility in jeopardy. I would also think that Hamilton would've been giver some assurances that he wouldn't be challenged by a No.2 driver. The apparently swift Hamilton contract signing would indicate some accomodations were entered into.Then again I could be entirely wrong....."

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