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Wolff admits Bottas in “an uncomfortable situation” at Mercedes

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says he understands that Valtteri Bottas is in an uncomfortable, high-pressure situation due to his short-term contract with the team.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, in the pit lane
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, lead the field away at the start of the race
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB13, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Toto Wolff, Executive Director Mercedes AMG F1
Esteban Ocon, Sahara Force India F1 VJM10, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1

Bottas was signed as a last-gasp replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired over the winter, initially on a one-year deal to partner Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva, Wolff said he was pleased with Bottas’s start to life at Mercedes.

However, Wolff stressed the Finn knew he would be unlikely to secure a contract extension early in the campaign due to the number of top line drivers – including Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso – who are out of contract at the end of the 2017 season. 

“Of course it’s an uncomfortable situation for him with quite some pressure,” said Wolff. “When we decided to make Valtteri the offer, he knew that we would be taking our time with the decision going forward because the driver market is more open in 2018 and beyond – 2018 and 2019. 

“That’s why we will not rush into a decision, but continue to work with him and see how that pans out. But generally the view of the team is that he’s done a good job.

“The call he received was pretty late, he’s driving against one of the best drivers of Formula 1 that has been with the team in his fifth season and he’s had a pole position, won a race in Sochi in a very dominant way and he's had the more difficult races. 

“But overall his performance on-track and the way he has integrated with the team was very positive.”

Wolff thinks risk has “paid out”

While Wolff accepts that Bottas’s move to Mercedes on a short-term deal was a risk for the 27-year-old, he believes he has boosted his reputation by proving himself in a top car.

“He has taken a decision to leave Williams and join Mercedes in a one-year deal,” he said. “I think that the perception of him as a racing driver has gained.

“He’s won a race rather than lost, so I think it already paid out.”

Wolff added that the fact Bottas brought sponsorship money with him to Mercedes this year increased his appeal, even if it wasn’t the key factor behind the team choosing him as Rosberg’s replacement.

“Today the revenue model for some of the teams, for most of the teams, is also actually to generate income,” he said. “Even if we look at a Red Bull or a Mercedes I would rather have a driver with some sponsorship than not. 

“Even Valtteri for example, part of his value proposition for this year was that he came with a sponsor and clearly we would rather have the money than not.”

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