Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2019

Bottas doubts poor Hungaroring race will decide his Mercedes future

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas doesn’t believe his poor result in the Hungarian Grand Prix will swing Mercedes’ decision on whether to keep him for the 2020 F1 season.

His race never recovered from a poor first lap where he damaged his front wing, forcing him to make an early pit stop, which left him eighth at the chequered flag. But Bottas said the result does not make him “nervous” about his future, despite team principal Toto Wolff admitting Esteban Ocon is under consideration for Bottas’s seat next year.

“For sure would be nice to hear some news when the team decides what they want to do,” said Bottas.

“What can I do? I was trying, took a bit of a risk to try and get the lead braking outside of turn one and then just a bit messy in turn two and three. A bit unlucky with the front wing damage, it could have been a different race.

“I don’t think it’s going to change anything, one race, like I said before the weekend. So I’m not really nervous. I’m sure we will know more news very soon.”

Having led the championship earlier in the season, Bottas has fallen 62 points behind Hamilton with 234 available over the remaining races.

“For sure it is a big gap,” he admitted. “Much bigger than I would have liked to have.

“But that’s the gap now, not a lot else I can do. I don’t really want to think about it too much at the moment, for sure. We’ll still go through everything about this race with the team and then move on.

“There’s still many races to go, obviously a bit [of a] tricky situation but that’s how it is.”

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42 comments on “Bottas doubts poor Hungaroring race will decide his Mercedes future”

  1. I agree that one race isn’t likely going to change much for him.

    Having said that, it’s not just one race. Had he done stellar and been backing up Hamilton in that fight for the win, it would have shown he adds something extra to the team. But, currently the last two races added 4 points to his tally and while he got the podium in Austria, where Hamilton won the other 6 races, Bottas was 2nd twice (when the car was a lot faster, so solid, but not special?), had three 3rds, and a 4th place.

    On the whole, just like last year, his results show he started the season well, but then leveled at a pace where things have to go ok for him to end up on the last step of the podium, and only when the car’s great does he end up behind Hamilton. But only in Austria was he able to do something extra when Hamilton couldn’t, and take up the slack for the team. If it goes like last year, the coming races will have Ferrari and/or Red Bull fighting Hamilton for wins, with Bottas only showing up on the podium when one of those make a mistake, and in Russia.

    So, to me that makes clear that that Mercedes, with thoughts about Ocon and Russell in mind too, should take a bit of risk and let Bottas go. Had the last race, or the one in Germany shown Bottas as always capable of being a dependable deputy, that choice would be harder, but given the now established pattern over the last three years, not too different.

    At worst, Ocon has to learn not to crash with Hamilton. But, with Hamilton being as fast and good, I think Ocon will feel he can beat him, but also that he can take some time before he has to, now he’s in the top team. Unlike at FI, where he knew he needed to assert himself as a promise against a relative ‘good midfielder’ Perez.

    1. I see your point but one the other hand I am a bit skeptical on how merc decision over the future of Valteri in the team for next year (either positive or negative) will affect his mentality/psychology, and thus his performance for the rest of the year. To elaborate a bit more, I personally believe, not only for merc but also for any racing team, and in general for professional sport organizations, that taking decisions on drivers contracts mid-season is always risky.

      I think it is less risky to determine from the beginning of signing a new contract that a decision of renewal (not including x+y contract agreements) should be made either after a season has ended, or at least very close to the end, where there are no high stakes at risk for the team. In this case you might avoid negative effects of a mid-season decision and even the accumulation of pressure to perform that some drivers might not handle in a proper way.

      In this particular case, who can be a) sure that this pressure for signing a new contract has not affected negatively Valteri already (and is one of the reasons of the mediocre results in the last races), and b) can predict how a decision (positive or negative) can affect his performance after the summer break, which will influence the team’s effort for the WCC (possibly not so much since they have created already a safe points gap) and also the team’s effort for the WDC.

      So there are the goals for the current year that have to be achieved and there also the long-term goals. You have Hamilton who is your best chance for the WDC for this year (according to all facts at this point) and that has another year of contract, and then who knows.. You have Bottas who at the end of this year will have been 3 years in the team and we could in general say that successfully fulfilled the role of the 2nd driver, helping in securing 3 WCC and providing assistance for the other driver when needed. But as things have shown until now, probably unable to take a step higher. Then you have two young talented drivers (Ocon , Russel) who sooner or later have to decide to to them on the main team to ensure the future, with or without Hamilton.

      In a nutshell, there are so many factors to balance for taking the best decision for now and tomorrow that there will be inevitably “casualties”. And that is what Toto and Mercedes will have to do soon, because their decisions all the previous years led to this point.

      1. I do agree mostly. But, given the pattern in the last few years, where he didn’t do so well in the last half (two-thirds) of the season even though he did get a contract extension (in fact, shortly afterwards it went downhill last year, didn’t it?), I think that his inability to work to perfection with that pressure, Mercedes has reasons to doubt he can ever really fight for the WDC @delta6

        1. @bosyber, the extension of Bottas’s contract (which already included the option for extending it to 2020) was indeed announced halfway through the 2018 season, being made just before the German Grand Prix.

        2. Reading your post I mostly agreed @bosyber. However, it fails to take into account the extra beating Bottas got from being made to give a race win to Hamilton and play second fiddle after that.

          And off course it is a question whether Mercedes really want’s their drivers to both fight for the championship. We have heard especially Toto say it quite often that it was too much stress with Rosberg pushing Hamilton all the way for 3 years.

          1. @bascb, I feel your 2nd paragraph misinterprets what Wolff says – Mercedes seemed fine with Bottas contesting the WDC with Hamilton earlier this year (and even last year, although there he, despite speed being there, had things not go his way), what Wolff seemed to praise was the lack of acrimony while fighting on track.

            Now, that might partly be because Hamilton didn’t feel as threatened by Bottas (?), but, he also didn’t have the same history as with Rosberg, I feel. Ocon is quite a different matter again, and Wolff will make sure he’s clear on what’s allowed and what not, after Rosberg.

            As for your first paragraph, well, Bottas did indeed have to give up a race win in Russia, and I agree that that impacted him; he was consistently 5th, with Hamilton, Verstappen, and either RAI, RIC or VET ahead (who ever of those didn’t hit trouble, or spin). Now, maybe that would have been different, if not for that given away win. But, arguably that’s a sign he lacked resilience – sympathetic, but maybe not what F1 needs – a Rosberg 2015 end would have been much better in that respect.

            And in fact, the reason he was asked to give up the win wasn’t just a fear of Ferrari, Red Bull, but he was way behind already; after Monza BOT was 100 points behind HAM, with Vettel and Raikkonen in between them since Hungary. Now, it’s not that I agree with asking him to give up that win, I think it was a bit of paranoia by Wolff, but already before that, their fight was effectively over with Bottas not finishing ahead since Monaco (right?).

          2. Off course the fight was over. Because yeah, Hamilton has been better than his teammate by quite a stretch over the last two years @bosyber – although Bottas kept his form from the start of the year quite a bit longer than earlier seasons this year.

            And yeah, I think the reason both Wolf and Hamilton feel comfortable with Bottas is exactly because Bottas isn’t really challenging Hamilton. There was a slight hint of tension between them after the first few races though, a sign that Hamilton won’t be too keen on having to deal with Ocon.
            And I think Wolf must have seen that as well, and since he’s been talking a lot about how they won’t want anything like the tension that was between Rosberg and Hamilton anymore, it’s clearly a factor to consider.

            Sure enough there is not the decade of previous history between Hamilton and Ocon like there was with Rosberg, but we saw how easily things heated up with Alonso and Hamilton, we saw how even Button and Hamilton had moments of tension, we saw Verstappen and Sainz didn’t work too well at STR, we’ve seen Perez get riled up with Ocon in the team and we’ve seen how Ferrari’s attempt to say that Leclerc is the de facto support driver this year is working out for them.
            Reality is, that either Ocon will work hard to get under Lewis’ skin or that he won’t be the talent they are looking for. So either Wolf thinks Hamilton can handle it and is leaving after 2020 anyway, or he will advise to stay with a decent Bottas and let Ocon grow at Renault (?) with an option to take him back once/if Hamilton bows out and if they can’t then get Verstappen in.
            Since Hamilton seems to be enjoying the fight with Verstappen, I’d say that would be a reason to believe he will be staying on.

  2. Always remember Bottas 2.0 was a thing this year.

    I’m not sure Ocon is an upgrade on Bottas, too many unknowns there, but you can take that risk when you have Hamilton in your team ensuring the wins and titles.

    1. Plus Ocon has a gift of placing his car in closing spaces.
      I too don’t believe he will exactly be an upgrade.

    2. @fer-no65 I am still mixed about Ocon and it’s like spoiling the kid to promote him to Mercedes as he hasn’t shown anything special (he’s been good but not stellar and behavior is not the best). I would much rather see Russell in the other Mercedes.

      Bottas isn’t that bad after all, he is doing a fine job of bringing points home and supporting Lewis whenever needed and he can. Ocon presents too much risk compared to the added benefit to Bottas. Russell seems to be a great driver with a nice mentality, good combo to have in a team.

    3. If it was Alonso joined mercedes since 2013-2014, he would already a 7 times f1 champ by now.

      1. Or more likely the Mercedes team would be a smouldering wreck now, coping with political issues within the staff and pointing fingers in every direction, the typical state Alonso leaves his teams in.

    4. Ocon wouldn’t even do better than Bottas. He didn’t showed anything as impressive as Verstappen or Leclerc while driving better cars than them.

      And Mercedes isn’t helping Bottas’s case either, with these short contract extensions and constant pressure to prove himself worthy of another one.
      He is no newbie to be proving himself all the time and should’ve won many more races if it weren’t for bad luck and radio messages.

      He is a good driver and i would like to see him in a good ride, if Mercedes opts for Ocon next season.

      1. The real question isn’t whether Occan is a better driver, but whether he gives better PR.

        Let’s face it, as good a driver as Bottas is, he is underwhelming when it comes to PR.

  3. John Richards (@legardforpresident)
    6th August 2019, 9:03

    Sadly, I think Bottas knows the writing is on the wall and is now just trying to build his cache for future potential teams. Bottas was always destined to be a #2 at Mercedes whether he liked it or not. What separates him from say a Barrichello or a Webber for that matter is that on days when the #1’s race was compromised, the #2 picked up the pieces. Bottas blew that part back in Germany when he had a chance to dock 18 odd points from Hamilton but crashed out due to an error. It’s sad because Valterri is such a nice bloke. A no-nonsense kind of guy. I wish him well. But sadly, when there’s a Russell or an Ocon in the wings, you sort of sense that Merc are trying to show Bottas the door.

  4. I think despite Bottas’ bad form they will keep him. Makes Hamilton look even better, and is not rattling any cages. Plus Totto is his manager. I am sure he can negotiate with himself pretty well :-)

    Makes sense for them, but from a fans point of view its boring. At least when McLaren dominated the sport they had Senna and Prost. Imagine if Prost had Bottas as a teammate for all those years? I dont think we would call it a “classic” era would we. Prost would have many more titles and records though thats for sure.

    1. joe pineapples
      6th August 2019, 11:28

      Toto stopped being his manager as soon as Bottas signed for Mercedes.

    2. Honestly, despite two really bad recent races, I think he has done okay this season so. Many other good drivers crashed in Germany as well so I can’t hold that againts him too much. Started badly in Hungary which was his fault, but the front wing damage with the Leclerc contact was more bad luck.

      As long as Hamilton stays, I can see him staying cos he is a fairly reliable no 2 that doesnt push the boat too much. That helps get the best from Hamilton, which is still Mercedes golden goost.

    3. @vjanik, mind you, had it not been for Prost recommending to Ron Dennis and the other senior members of McLaren that they should go out and hire Senna, that Prost-Senna line up might never have occurred.

      Originally, McLaren’s preference was to hire Nelson Piquet – partially because he was a proven winner who was in the process of winning his third title in 1987, and partially because they were aware that they would also get significant support from Honda if they hired Piquet.

    4. Merc isn’t red bull they don’t care about hyping one of their drivers up. They only care about the drivers and constructors championship and for that you need two solid drivers

  5. Wolf has committed to Ocon being in a seat next year.

    He also has to think about the future. If Mercedes stay in F! after 2021 who will be their star? Hamilton might move or just retire after a year of the new rules. Mercedes have quite a limited young driver choice. Ocon and Russel being the main members currently. Others are some way away.

    So Wolf and the board have a difficult conundrum. Promote Ocon with all the risks of a fast but teammate-damaging history and dump Bottas, or keep Bottas for another year and start the new era with a new line up of, if he stays, Hamilton and a young gun with another year of experience and track record.

    Then throw in the Renault conundrum. You do wonder why they threw so much money away on Ricciardo rather than keep the Hulk and take on a French young gun in Ocon. Are their board agitating for a French driver. it certainly won’t be Grosjean, will it, and there are few others even on the horizon.

    So, my guess is Wolf is waiting on Renault to decide on Ocon, and if they do then Bottas is safe for another year, if not, then he is out and Ocon in and George has to wait until Hamilton moves on when he is out of contract in 2021. Sad, because of the two Russel is definitely the best choice. He has proven his race craft, he has tested the Mercedes and shown he is blisteringly fast, is thoughtful and meticulous in his planning and execution.

    That maybe in Toto’s mind in terms of succession planning, but then again Wolf is committed to finding Ocon a seat next year.

    A 20 aspirin headache.

  6. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    6th August 2019, 10:48

    There’s a lot to be said for a really good, reliable number 2 driver who will have his day but generally not rock the apple cart. It’s not exciting but the setup is the perfect harmony for delivering results.

  7. If merc is not extending bottas contract, he will be picked up by RBR.

    1. Except that car merits an agile racer.

  8. I don’t think Bottas will be replaced. His form is far from poor. He is fast enough to keep Hamilton on his toes both in qualifying and in the race, while his Finnish work ethic does not create team drama and feed into a toxic atmosphere. Without bad luck in the races, and the team favoring Hamilton in strategic decisions, Bottas would be a lot closer.

    Who will they replace Bottas with, Ocon?
    The same guy who continuously crashed into his teammate Perez at Force India?
    Good luck with that, Toto. Besides, it is far from a given that Ocon is faster than Bottas.

    1. “The same guy who continuously crashed into his teammate Perez at Force India?” – It takes two to Tango…

      1. Yeah, but Perez won’t get that merc seat either.

        His point stands.

  9. Here’s what I posted in another article. Toto said that they were taking the longer term future in considering.

    It all depends on what Hamilton and Mercedes want to do after 2020:
    If Hamilton quits (quite possible) then I Mercedes will miss ‘star’ power with Ocon and possibly Russell as teammates. Same with a move from Hamilton to Ferrari.
    If Mercedes wants Verstappen in 2021 I can’t see them pairing him with Ocon (those two both have too big ego’s to get along nicely).

    Two major ifs, but they’re still lingering under the table. To get rid of them for now it’s easier to keep Bottas who is still 2nd in the championship and is performing reasonably well as a #2. In 2021 they can promote Russell. Then it’s between Hamilton and Verstappen which is an easy choice if Hamilton continues in F1 and wants to continue with Mercedes.

    So in short: extent Bottas for 1 year.

  10. Nothing wrong with Bottas being at Merc as he has been reasonably consistent in netting points and he is generally a good qualifier.
    And after all it could be worse,they could have Gasly in that seat;)

    1. All succesful ventures carry out ‘succession planning” when they are ahead of the game; behind the curve is too late.

    2. @mobiusclean merc is a better/smarter team than that. No way they would paint themselves into the corner Red Bull has.

  11. I think it’s good time for Toto to make the decision to put Ocon in the car for next year. It wouldn’t look good if Bottas wins a race and then be told he will be replaced so now is the right time they tell him that he lost the seat to Ocon, he too will understand the decision.
    I think Bottas has hit the peak of what he can do and it shows he cant be the future of Mercedes. So trying Ocon and to see how talented he is makes all the sense.

  12. The narrative that Ocon is a teammate crasher is a bit odd – let’s recall that Perez felt so under threat of Ocon that he stopped playing the team game, and the team’s way of badly dealing with that set them both on a path of trying to outdo the other. Yes, sure, he was frustrated at the end of last year after he lost out on three possible seats, one to Stroll who still hasn’t been able to outqualify Perez.

    In that context, he saw Max, who he thought he should be fighting with, go for another win in Brazil and knew at that point in time he was faster, so was allowed to unlap – I have to think Mercedes had enough experience with the Rosberg/Hamilton situation to stop that sort of thing before it gets anywhere, if he gets the seat.

  13. Agreed. I think it is unfair to call Ocon a difficult team mate. It takes two to tango. Perez was just as guilty as Ocon was.

    Ocon has been on the sidelines for a year. He has had a chance to mature and see how things are done at Merc. He will be fine if given the seat. My guess is with the coming upheaval next year that Merc is trying to get him into any seat possible. If that doesn’t work, then he will get the Merc seat.

  14. Would love to see Bottas going to Red Bull alongside Verstappen IF Ocon is taking the 2nd seat at Mercedes.

  15. That would be the best, but the odds probably are extremely low.

    Bottas would be a great team mate for Max and help solidify the second seat. He might get the same amount of points as say Danny, but he would do better than Kvyat, Gasly or Albon (maybe another year Albon be ready).

  16. There are 3 places left to be decided. Renault Haas and Mercedes, and three drivers, Hulk ocon and Bottas. Who will end up in the merc car? I hope Hulk, the bottas in the Haas and ocon to Renault

  17. Mercedes had 5 1-2 finishes in a row at the start of the season when they had a dominant car. Now the car isn’t so dominant he’s had 2 bad races, one due to some bad luck and the other a wet race when plenty of other drivers had incidents including Hamilton. Still Mercedes have had another 2 x 1-2 finishes since their initial success.

    With Bottas they have a competent driver who wins a few races, doesn’t cause friction with their number 1 driver and generally doesn’t throw away points.

    Will Ocon do better and not upset the balance of the team?

  18. How does not turning up for the Team Photo help Valterri’s case?

    1. So they miss him already. And what him back.

  19. Hungary can’t cost bottas his merc seat… he’s already lost it.

    You can try to hide things, but things like Wolfe’s comments, the team photo at Hungary, etc, can’t be hidden so easily.

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