Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Shanghai International Circuit, 2018

Bottas showed he’d improved in first half of 2018 – Wolff

2018 F1 season

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Valtteri Bottas showed he had raised his game in the first half of his second season at Mercedes, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

Speaking at the FIA Gala on Friday, Wolff said Bottas was unlucky not to win races early in 2018.

“I think he performed at a higher level in the first half of the season and that is reflected by the points,” said Wolff. “He would have been leading the championship after Baku.”

As Lewis Hamilton was in a close championship fight with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Wolff took the decision to use Bottas to support Hamilton in the latter stages of the title fight. He said this had an effect on Bottas’s motivation despite his driver’s denials.

“The moment you take away the ability to win the championship for a driver that is so focused on becoming a world champion, if he is in a Mercedes, that has a negative impact,” said Wolff. “It has also impacted Valtteri even though he says ‘no, I’m fine’. This is a fighter and I’m sure that this is a big blow that you have to mentally digest.

“He has not let this negatively affect the team. But I think he needs some time off now to recharge the batteries and come back again for another championship next year.”

Wolff said Bottas deserved credit for both Mercedes and Hamilton’s title wins. “We wouldn’t have won the drivers’ championship and the constructors’ championship without Valtteri,” he said.

“Valtteri, even with his bad luck, did never allow the spirit and the mindset to drop within the organisation. He was always capable to maintain the high spirits.

“You see drivers when they lose the ability to win the championship the whole thing goes really down the drain. It becomes negative, it becomes dysfunctional. Valtteri until the very end kept us in a positive place.”

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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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36 comments on “Bottas showed he’d improved in first half of 2018 – Wolff”

  1. You would have won the championships with anyone from the grid in Bottas car, possibly excluding the Williams drivers…

    1. So you think that Bottas could’ve beaten Vettel to the title, despite having a equally paced but less reliable car than Vettel? You must have an extremely low opinion of Vettel

      1. I believe hes talking about Mercedes being able to win the constructors by putting anyone in that seat. I’m not really sure why he mentioned it though as its not what the post is about.

        1. @julianwins

          It isnt?

          “Wolff said Bottas deserved credit for both Mercedes and Hamilton’s title wins. “We wouldn’t have won the drivers’ championship and the constructors’ championship without Valtteri,” he said.”

          1. Yes, agree with gabriel, most drivers would’ve been fine for mercedes to win especially the drivers, but also the constructors championship, midfield drivers at least would’ve been ok, perez, hulkenberg, ocon, sainz etc.

  2. ” He would have been leading the championship after Baku.”

    Only if you ignore Hamilton’s bad luck in Australia & Bahrain. Or any of Vettel’s early bad luck.

    Swings & round abouts

    1. @buffy Hamilton would only have scored 7 more points in Australia. But he should have had 7 less points in Baku. So after 4 races, the standings should have been Hamilton 70 points, Bottas 72 without the safety car in China. In fact, Bottas could have won Bahrain as well, if it didn’t take Mercedes so long to figure out Ferrari’s strategy.

  3. It is good of Toto to be honest and open about the mental impact of using Bottas as a #2. And if repaying Bottas for this was a factor in signing him again for 2019, I can’t really blame Toto for benching Ocon for a year.

    1. @phylyp Hadn’t TW re-signed VB ahead of the Stroll/Force India news, having expected that Ocon would be ‘safe and on standby’ at Force India for 2019? TW ended up scrambling on Ocon’s behalf during the August summer break.

      1. Yes, he was signed much ahead of the Stroll buyout of FI.

  4. Toto mean was…VB raise his game as best wingman ever.

    1. Toto called Valtteri a wingman once and it seems to be the only thing he has said that people remember …. so sad to here this being quoted over and over again.

      1. oops I meant “hear”

  5. Yup he really did raise his game at the beginning of the season and looked brilliant – if unlucky.

    Then went off the boil so hard that he might as well have not turned up for the second half of the year and nobody would have noticed he’d gone.

    The guy’s a decent driver and certainly has the potential to win, but whether Mercedes allows or whether his own mental strength allows are different questions that only he can answer. The guy’s got to improve next year AND STICK WITH IT, or his seat’s as good as Ocon’s.

    1. Yeah VB not only has to improve, but he, like LH and SV and CL ‘simply’ have to stamp their authority on the situation and earn their place such that it is not they that are being team ordered to help their teammate. If VB doesn’t come out at the start of 2019 beating LH, it will be a repeat of 2018, and before long the team will have no choice but to favour LH if there is big pressure and big points being grabbed by SV too. VB has no choice but to immediately be a WDC level driver from race one. I’ll not hold my breath.

  6. Just watched an interview with Max on TV where the overtake from RIC on BOT comes up. The interviewer calls it the overtake of the year but Max tells him that “an overtake on BOT can never be the overtake of the year”

    :D

      1. Harsh but true, and not necessary.

        1. Bottas is to nice to become a champion.

    1. @anunaki, if it was his own overtake I bet he wouldn’t say that.

      1. He sais Bottas always leaves the door open. Not that the overtake was bad

  7. I still rate Bottas higher than most people here it seems. I do think he was clearly a step up from last year near the start of this season despite what happened in Australia. Even then, he didn’t look to be slow. He was actually looking quick from his previous laps that day. He made 1 mistake big enough to crash. But it wasn’t like Hamilton didn’t do that once or twice a season in recent years.

    Bottas’s biggest problem is that when he has back luck and any team orders come into play, he does try a bit to hard to make it look like he’s following them. And often doesn’t quite seem to try hard enough to still get the best possible result. Although it has to be said, in the last few races, he seriously has helped Hamilton by holding up the others. I can’t deny it though, he was underperforming in the 2nd half of the season. Though Hamilton i think is possibly at his best ever level. And in the recent races, I think Ferrari and Red Bull have basically matched Mercedes or been slightly better in terms of performance other than in qualifying. That and Hamilton is making Bottas look worse than he really is.

    I still have a feeling Bottas is going to be able to improve enough to get a seat in 2020. Ocon may look close to getting that, but they wouldn’t have said Bottas had an option for 2020 for nothing. At the moment, I don’t see it being any more likely that Ocon will get it than Bottas keeping it if he has a solid year. As by then, Bottas will have had 3 years as well as 4 with another team. He will be much better in terms of feedback and experience. And if I’m honest, he and Hamilton do look like they get on well which in one way is very good for the team. Also, Mercedes were one of only 2 teams that kept both drivers for next year. They must be more happy than a good deal of teams were with their drivers. And they did have a chance to get Ocon. But something must have put them off enough to keep Bottas. We can’t tell just yet if Ocon is going to convince them enough to make the swap. As cruel as it would be on Ocon to not let him race for yet another year, I’m not really sure what people have seen that makes them think Ocon would do a better job than Bottas.

    1. @thegianthogweed Yeah that’s fair comment. You’d have to categorize me as one who needs to see more from VB, but I also don’t see what all the fuss is about wrt Ocon in terms of him being such a better alternative. I’d be thrilled if Bottas came out swinging at the start of 2019. He has to. The gloves have to come off and the hand holding between he and LH has to stop. They’re only getting along so well because he has not been a bother to LH. Once he is, the tone on the team will change and more of a rivalry will set in.

      1. Not that there is anything wrong with saying it, but it is rare to see one of your comments about Bottas without the few words “the gloves have to come off”. Must have seen it about 10 times or more this year :D I’m not totally sure what it means and i don’t see other people using it quite so often. Regarding the rest of what you have said, i mostly agree. I’m not sure though about Bottas getting better resulting in them not getting on as well. Hamilton shows his respect for when he’s been outqualified and knows Bottas has done better than him.

        1. @thegianthogweed Lol I know I have repeated that phrase several times, and it was after Wolff said it, and I agreed, that I started to include that in my stance.

          And when I speak of that, I don’t mean the odd time VB outqualifies LH and how LH shows respect for that. LH can and has been conciliatory because VB has not been a threat, but rather an assistant. I’m talking about the kind of real rivalry that LH had with NR where on any given weekend NR was a true threat throughout the whole season, and indeed we all heard the numerous and bitter remarks LH made in 2016, accusing the team of favouring NR.

          2016 showed us that the tone would entirely change with LH if VB became a legitimate challenger for the WDC, including leading the standings, rather than an assistant to him winning another title.

    2. Agree with this. Bottas did indeed have some poor races last year but I’ve seen no evidence that anyone else who’s both available and a realistic option could do a significantly better job.

      For some reason many people approach the Bottas situation as ‘he didn’t beat Hamilton, next!’, while not applying the same thinking to Raikkonen (beaten by Vettel), Ricciardo (beaten by Verstappen) or anyone else on the grid. Despite Hamilton operating at what looks like a higher level than anyone else in 2018…

      In some cases, it comes across like they’re so desperate for someone to beat Hamilton that his team-mate is held to a higher standard than anyone else.

      1. In some cases, it comes across like they’re so desperate for someone to beat Hamilton that his team-mate is held to a higher standard than anyone else.

        Couldn’t have put it in a better way! The frustrations against Bottas’ performances seem to stem from the frustrations against Hamilton’s dominance. I think even if Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, or even a much-loved young driver like Ocon or Leclerc were in that seat and lost the championship to Ham, people would be asking for his replacement.

        1. I have to agree as well. Frankly, I’m tired of any arguments that imply any of these guys are doing a shyte job. Lewis has done better than all of them & that’s why he’s champion. Vettel had the tools & was better than Kimi, but made mistakes. Valtteri also had the tools but suffered horrible luck… & Lewis was just better. Both Kimi & Bottas were sacrificed at points for the sake of their teammates & it was perfectly logical & normal. The cars were pretty darn close, but only one driver repeatedly stood out, by a margin.

        2. I don’t agree. Nobody was saying that with Rosberg. Bottas is much inferior to Rosberg. There’s no question about it.
          I always thought that as long as Mercedes could win both Championships, it didn’t matter who was the 2nd driver. I still think that but having seen Bottas’ performance the 2nd half I’m not so sure they can easily win them.

          1. @thegianthogweed
            @robbie
            I would love for more to see Bottas crowned a World Camp, just after Daniel does of course!
            He at this stage isn’t quick enough, if he can beat Lewis on quali pace, is game on, hope he can!!

  8. Basically.. What Toto is saying is “Not bad for a number 2 driver”

  9. Mercedese at the beginning of 2018:objective 1. win constructors championship. 2. Win drivers championship. I guess they ticked all their boxes…. End of story.

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