Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2018

Wolff expects Bottas to “make another step” in 2019

2018 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expects Valtteri Bottas to bounce back following the disappointment of being told to hand victory to his team mate in the Russian Grand Prix.

Bottas is yet to win a race since last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi. He was on course to win in Russia before being told to let Lewis Hamilton past to strengthen his team mate’s position in the championship.

With Hamilton likely to clinch the title within the next two races, Wolff backed Bottas to end his win-less drought and raise his game in 2019. “I think Valtteri will get a victory and I think Valtteri will get many more victories in his life,” he said.

“He will go into his third season with Mercedes next year and make another step. He’ll have learned and improved and see himself as a strong challenger for the championship, it’s exactly what we want, so that will come.”

Wolff suspects Bottas lost some “momentum” after having to give up the victory, though the driver hasn’t admitted it.

“I think we have to remind ourselves that for a race driver who is channeling all his efforts into winning races and the championship to take a victory away from him it will automatically drop a little bit of momentum. He says he hasn’t got that but I believe that will be a little part of it.

“He’s a tremendous team player and I really can’t emphasise that enough. After Sochi in the evening we had a discussion and he said ‘I completely understand why you did it and if I were in your shoes I would have done exactly the same, I need to outperform Lewis at the end of the season and score more victories to be in a position to fight for the championship, so don’t worry about me.’”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 42 comments on “Wolff expects Bottas to “make another step” in 2019”

    1. Well maybe for the first time since he joined Merc he’ll have another driver in serious contention for his seat, as Ocon will be prepared to jump into it as soon as it becomes available.

      1. The worst part is that if he wants to win, he risks his seat. If he stays put and let Lewis eat all the cookies he could be confirmed.

        1. Yeh sure….

      2. Merc want 1st & 2nd , not 1st & 3rd, Valteri needs to beat Seb or someone else will get a shot at it,

        1. There’s a maximum of 100 points left on the table. To get second place in the WDC, if Valtteri (currently 207 points) got those he’d have 307 points. Sebastian has 264 points, a difference of 43 points. To be relegated to third place Sebastian will need to earn an average below ((43-1)/4 = ) 10.5 points per race for the next four races. That would mean Sebastian has to average 5th place (10 points) for each of the next 4 races. That isn’t Sebastian’s usual result, usually he has scored better than 5th this year, so one shouldn’t expect it over the last 4 races.
          I’m not expecting Valtteri to beat Sebastian this year. If that team order hadn’t been given then it would have been slightly easier for Valtteri to beat Sebastian this year, but I don’t think it would have made a lot of difference. I expect Sebastian to beat Valtteri in the F1 drivers points table.

    2. “Another step”. You mean to the top of the podium? Will you let him, Toto?

      1. That just his words to take care of VB’s upset feeling. And the stort still goes the same.

      2. Only when the number one pilot at Merc has his WDC confirmed can the number two win a race. With maybe one possible exception: if the number one pilot DNFs, the number two can be allowed to win.

    3. ‘I determine if Valtteri will get a victory’
      FTFY Toto.

    4. Bottas will be solid again next year and do exactly what Merc wants, be a reliable strategic tool to protect Lewis and bag them constructors points. He cant do anything else because he is just not on the same level as Lewis which there is no shame in, Lewis is an all time great. Ocon to get the seat in 2020 and then we will see how good he really is.

    5. Perhaps if you let him win when he could it wouldn’t keep pushing him down a step or two, Toto. You can’t push someone down and then encourage them to make a step forward. Not really fair. If luck had gone his way earlier in the year his scoreline would look a lot better than it does now – guy’s doing alright.

      1. Said it all really.

      2. Well said. Glad there are a few people out there who remember how good he was early in the season. Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan should all have been his.

        1. Bahrain shouldn’t have been his. Seb did an amazing drive that weekend given his tyre wear and Bottas didn’t seize the opportunity in the last lap. The other two though were his own.

      3. Toto seems to be wearing blinders when it comes to drivers (somewhat) under his management. He let slip an easy seat for Ocon and started blaming other teams, I’m expecting him to start pointing fingers at others for not giving Wehrlein a second shot, and now he’s implicitly stating that Bottas needs to up his game, when the team consciously let him down when he was performing at his best. Granted, he hasn’t shined as brightly as Hamilton this year, but I can name 18 other drivers who have been outshone by the stellar season Hamilton has been having.

      4. exactly @rocketpanda. It’s hardly surprising he does not radiate confidence in his ability and takes the chances he sees when they could land him into trouble with his team for beating his teammate.

    6. We expected it to happen this year.. You can’t wait forever…

    7. “on course to win in Russia…”. How do you know? Because he was in the lead with Hamilton behind him and asking repeatedly for Bottas to speed up? You know, that driver who had just given Vettel an example of controlled aggression in an overtake.

      1. Correct. This is what the ‘Bottas should have been given the place back’ crowd seem to (deliberately) miss. With over half the race to go Mercedes would in effect be ordering the championship leader not to fight for the win. And at the strategy meeting Hamilton would be ‘yea, I’ll just settle for second and cruise round for over half the race in first and then give the place back.’ Not going to happen. He would have opted to take Bottas on; and with over half the race to go I doubt many would bet against him winning out.

        1. Mercedes would in effect be ordering the championship leader not to fight for the win.

          Nobody would expect Mercedes/Toto to order the attacking driver to stay put :P
          @riptide

      2. How do you know?

        Because he was controlling the race from the start to the first round of pitstops and, after his first stop, was managing his pace (and was in fact told to reduce his pace to back Vettel up into Hamilton) after being told by the team he didn’t need to pass Verstappen to win the race. It’s all in the team radio transcript.

        https://www.racefans.net/2018/10/03/2018-russian-grand-prix-team-radio-highlights/

      3. The fact that Bottas maintained a strong gap to Hamilton after giving up the position shows that he had the pace to win, that’s using nothing more than lap comparisons, even if Bottas dropped back a little every lap, at Sochi you need strong pace to overtake, I doubt Lewis had the pace (not saying he was slow, just not fast enough)

    8. Another step out the door?

    9. To be fair to Bottas he’s had his fair share of bad luck. He should have 2 wins to his name this year, and 3 without the switcheroo. If not for that he would be much closer to Vettel and securing Mercedes a 1-2, If more of that bad luck had hit Hamilton instead, the championship fight would be coming a lot closer down to the wire.

      That being said there was no excuse for Australia, which set his campaign off to a sour note from race one. Next year he really has to nail that race and put Hamilton on the back foot…

      1. @skipgamer Precisely. He’s indeed lost two rather certain wins due to circumstances out of his control (the unnecessarily long delay in deploying the SC in China, and the sudden puncture due to debris left on the track from a previous incident in the following race in Azerbaijan), and then, of course, the 3rd due to team order-tactics in Russia, which in the end, was entirely understandable WDC-wise. And yes, he has to nail the season-opener better next time.

        1. We need to stop counting Bottas’s potential win in Baku. People seem to have forgotten he was almost 20secs behind Lewis and Vettel before a fortuitous safety car.

          1. @kbdavies

            I’d say it is more that you need to look back on things before pointing out the time gaps. The biggest gap between Bottas and Hamilton was 8 seconds. Nothing close to 20. And if you include the distance to Vettel, that was 14 at the highest. Then that gap suddenly closed due to Hamilton’s error. Then Bottas picked up his pace on the 2nd half of his first stint. Enough to just about put him in the position to jump Hamilton once he pitted. Hamilton was around 20 seconds behind Bottas and that time remained pretty much the same for nearly 10 laps. Adding on around 3 seconds (for when he pitted) to that 20 seconds would likely have resulted in Bottas just about coming out ahead of Hamilton even without the safety car. Plus he was on much newer tyres and will have had the massive speed advantage down the straight. Also look at the fact Vettel and Hamilton were not faster than Bottas even after they pitted. Bottas was still setting fastest sectors.

            I think it is fair enough people counting Bottas potential win. Him going slow at the start resulted in his tyres lasting and turnign out to be the best strategy. Hamilton messed up by locking up. While I think Vettel would ahve won without the safety car, when he had the chance to get Bottas, he blew it. That was a very unfortunate missed win for Bottas.

            1. Bottas lost 2 race wins due to no fault of his own, China & Baku [he can count himself fortuitous in Baku, because had it not been for the SC, he probably would’ve finished 2nd], the 3rd we all know why that was. Lewis also lost race wins due to no fault of his own Australia & Austria*

              So let’s remove the anomalies and assess the rest of the season, Bottas simply has not been good enough. He does not have the skills needed to win a WDC. Mercedes didn’t bring him to do that, just like Gasly isn’t going to Red Bull to do the same. They’re there to help win the constructors title.

              I also love the crowd that keeps talking about who Lewis’ teammates is and how he should have this or that guy in the team, whilst ignoring that compared the fact he went up against 2 previous WDC winners and his weakest teammate has been Heikki

    10. If (…), the championship fight would be coming a lot closer down to the wire.

      And don’t forget Sirotkin who was still in the fight until Belgium ;)

    11. The challenge Bottas has its that he has often been just a few tenths behind Hamilton during qualifying, and now often than not, lacking in race pace. Either Hamilton had upped his level or Bottas has dropped his.
      Perhaps Bottas is saving his tyres during the race, but he hardly ever challenges the competing team’s driver when he finds himself behind them.
      Can he lead Mercedes if Hamilton suddenly decides to stop?

      1. Bottas was never on the level of Lewis or close to his pace. His race pace has always been bad compared to Lewis. As for him leading the team when Lewis retires, no one at Mercedes would consider this as a serious proposition.

    12. The record books never remember the “what if’s – coulda been if only”

      and separately,

      Remember Spain 2016 ? , the reverb from the boardroom in Stuttgart going ballistic still rings like tinnitus in Toto’s ears,

      Toto jumped on that scenario in Russia before Lewis started attacking Bottas with gusto , he wasn’t going down that road again :)

      1. @greg-c Lol the record books never remember, but we fans do.

        I can’t agree with your comparison though. Not only is Spain 2016 ancient history, but there was a unique and vicious rivalry going on. In Russia 2019 LH was never going to have that kind of fight on his hands with VB, team orders or not.

        It does sound like TW wouldn’t mind a second driver as strong as Nico was, but I don’t think he’ll find that in VB next year. And LH will have something to say about it (both on track and to the media) if VB presents a real challenge.

        A rivalry to rival LH/NR would be great, but it’s just not going to happen, imho.

    13. Bottas has displayed that he is not on Lewis’s level nor he is at Rosberg! Bottas is too nice to beat Lewis, too friendly. Qualifying its 17-3 which is very poor and he wants to beat Lewis in 2014 it was 11-8 to Rosberg and Lewis still beat him to the championship. Lewis knows Bottas’s strength and weaknesses. Unless they bring in Ricciardo, Vettel or Max from the current line up, the rest Lewis will make a mince meat out of all of them

    14. He’s got the first 10 races to still be in contention or he’s on relegated to support duty.

      1. I don’t disagree, but he might have even less depending on what others are up to. If SV and LH split the first six race wins for example, both their teammates will be toast as their team’s go-to drivers will be set and the orders/strategies will ensue. VB has to come out dominating (well, at least winning over LH and SV immediately) if he wants to secure his chance. He has to come out at the very beginning as at one with his Mercedes as LH is. It’s not going to be easy but it can be done. I’ll not be holding my breath.

        1. Id love to see the Hamster have a battle like he did with Brittney :)

          1. @greg-c Agreed. That was truly enthralling.

    15. He’s suffering to get a single victory this season due to strong Vettel-Ferrari and fears from Mercedes team. How would he able to make a win if Ferrari making another performance gain next season and Vettel winning consistently? His faith just like Kimi to be honest…

    16. No he won’t and Ocon in for 2020.

    17. So if Bottas starts 2019 with (say) 3 wins and a couple of seconds, but Lewis ultimately wins title no 6 by the end of the year and Merc the WCC with Bottas a clear second in the WDC, what happens then?

      Do they keep Bottas? If they do what happens to Ocon?

      Frankly, there’s no pressing need to get rid of Bottas, he does the job and does it well. Toto is really screwed when it comes to Ocon unless Lewis retires or moves teams.

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