Bottas has nothing to prove alongside “impressive” Russell, says Wolff

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is not concerned about potential rivalry between his drivers in today’s Sakhir Grand Prix, following George Russell’s arrival as a substitute.

Russell impressed the team by completing a front row lock-out for them in qualifying. Valtteri Bottas beat him to pole position by just two-hundredths of a second.

Wolff has made it clear the pair are “free to race” today. With Bottas already contracted to drive for the team again next year, and Lewis Hamilton expected to be confirmed as his team mate, Wolff played down any potential rivalry between Bottas and Russell.

“I don’t see any rivalry within our team,” he said. “Valtteri is well-settled. There’s nothing to prove for him.

“For George it’s a little bit easier because there is no pressure at all, he has nothing to lose.”

The pair relegated Max Verstappen to third on the grid. Wolff suspects the Red Bull driver will have an advantage over Russell at the start as he is starting on the cleaner side of the grid.

“Obviously Verstappen is not going to be happy that there is a new kid on the block that is standing in front of him.

“George is on the worst line, as we’ve seen last weekend. The cockpit is too small for him, the clutch pedal is too small too for his hands and his fingers. So really I have the same expectation tomorrow that I had for him for qualifying.”

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While Wolff was quick to praise Russell after he took second on the grid, he insisted the team were not surprised by the performance of their reserve driver following his promotion from Williams this weekend.

“[We were] impressed but not surprised. His speed, what I saw last with him when we were able to benchmark him in F3 and F2, I have seen that in a Formula 1 car. And his calmness about approaching it, he wasn’t rattled at all. And just a really considered approach, I would say.”

George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Russell’s ‘sheer driving’ has impressed Wolff
“What is most impressive is the sheer driving,” Wolff added. “All the other things around were as expected. The driving was impressive.”

Russell will start his first race for the team today after winning a place on its junior driver programme in 2017. That came about after he made a direct pitch to Wolff.

“I remember when he walked into my office when he was 15 or 16 years old with a presentation in his hands and the black suit with a black tie and made the case why he should be with Mercedes in the future,” Wolff recalled.

“Since then, he has performed up to the expectations. He’s won the F3 in his rookie year. He won F2 in his rookie year. He’s doing his job at Williams, trying to help the team to progress. So he’s definitely someone for the future.

“Now, having been thrown in the cold water, he is definitely swimming and not only swimming he’s not comfortable in the car it’s too small, it’s not his steering wheel. So I would say it’s more than solid, what he has delivered.”

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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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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24 comments on “Bottas has nothing to prove alongside “impressive” Russell, says Wolff”

  1. Well, thatS just PR talk. This weekend will not only prove that Bottas is the definite nr 2 driver. It will also show Mercedes they can easily save 50 million next year

    1. They could save x dollars by hiring vettel or Perez or whoever will be close enough to bottas. And could have done that for years now.

  2. Jonathan Parkin
    6th December 2020, 9:40

    Although Toto insists Valtteri has no concerns, I’m worried that his critics won’t accept anything less than a Grand Chelem today

    1. Do you realise how rare achievements Grand Chelems are? Hamilton hasn’t achieved a Grand Chelem this year and he has “only” six Grand Chelems in total, even though he is the most succesful Formula One driver. And yet you are suggesting that anything other than a Grand Chelem from Bottas is a failure.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        6th December 2020, 10:27

        Not me personally. I’m saying that certain people on this forum think that Bottas is a mediocre driver, so he will need a good result. Some people’s standard of a good result though is very high hence why I said in a Grand Chelem might be the only result they accept

        From my side I don’t think he’s a mediocre driver, I don’t have unrealistic expectations of him

        1. It’s really weird how people say Bottas is mediocre, then in the same breath heap praise on Hamilton and Russell… when he’s literally within a tenth or two of the both of them haha

          1. Bottas isn’t mediocre on qualifying pace. He can drive a car fast over a single lap as we’ve seen. He’s mediocre (in the context of Mercedes claiming he’s not a number 2 driver to Hamilton) over a season where he’ll make mistake after mistake as shown by his 2 wins vs 11 by Hamilton.

            If he drove for Renault or McLaren, we’d say he’s a decent midfield driver but the the comments about mediocrity come in response to those including Toto who want us to believe that he’s as fast as Lewis, is pushing him harder than Lewis has ever been pushed before and is only behind him due to bad luck.

    2. Bottas was hired to finish 2. That is why Bottas has nothing to worry about.

  3. Bottas has nothing to prove, Red Bull is the faster car, we treat our drivers equally, it’s been a very difficult race weekend, we’re not the quickest in pre-season testing.

    We’ve heard it all before Toto. Give it a break. Guy should run for politics.

    1. @deanfranklin

      We’ve heard it all before Toto. Give it a break. Guy should run for politics.

      He already is, he’s in F1

  4. Bottas has nothing to prove because Wolff always wanted Russell instead, but Williams not releasing him pushed that back a year. Hence, Bottas’ contract was extended by another year. 2022 will be Hamilton and Russell.

  5. Russell is obviously the real deal, but I think young Norris is as good if not even better. British F1 is in good hands.

    1. Totally agree…..Norris is closer to Piquet or Alonso’s daring and expressive driving style, whereas Russell has something of the calculated, rhythmic and assertiveness of Schumacher or Lauda about him. Albon, I’m afraid is like Brundle or Warwick……really very very good but lacking that final extra ingredient.

      1. @machinesteve

        You can’t show daring, flare and/or aggression when your:
        -team has no spares or too few to risk being very aggressive
        -car is too slow to pass anyone beside maybe a Haas or Alfa on their worst days while LN can compete with every car in the field aside from Mercedes (and hell, Sainz did pass them for the lead in mixed conditions.

        When quali is the only time he has a chance to show anything, you’re not going to learn much about his style. And dont forget the Williams has been notriously difficult and unpredictable to drive so that requires smooth and consistent not daring and ragged edge. While the McLaren on the other hand is known for being a very well sorted and friendly chassis and Norris is in a huge battle with 12-14 closely matched cars to race with.

    2. I disagree (I also disagree w/anyone who think Bottas is only mediocre). I believe in the long run we’ll see George is in the top tier w/ MV, CL, DR, FA and LH (not saying he’s as good yet, but that even now he’d be able to push them in quali and w/a half season under his belt in the same car he’d be fighting them hard).

      I really like Norris and hope I am wrong, but I think he’ll be a tier 3 driver (which to me includes the likes of Sainz, Hulk, Perez, Ocon and current Kimi and Gasly). Pretending 2020 never happened to Seb for a second, I think of Bottas (and pre-2020 Seb) as maybe the only other tier 2 driver on the grid (I consider this a driver who would easily win WDC in a dominant car without a tier 1 teammate just as Vettel did at RBR).

      But, due being paired w/LH, we don’t get to see that potential. I base this on:

      A. As we know, the Merc doesn’t look so dominant in dirty air where VB almost always is due to…

      B. …being paired with a driver so good that, along w/Senna & Schumi, is one of only three widely considered to hold or be in the discussion as F1’s GOAT.

      C.When you can’t beat your teammate even when you’re driving great that erodes your confidence which erodes your driving.

      D. Imagine, if VB had arrived at Mercedes paired w/a fading Schumi. He’d have racked up poles, wins, a WDC and then a team developing the car to his driving prefs (like what happened to Seb at RBR). Those factors would create huge levels of confidence and he’d be a much better driver for that.

      So, had he had ended up in Lewis’ shoes w/someone like Webber as a teammate he could have easily won 4-6 titles by now and have a story like RBR Vettel; a great qualifier w/tons of poles, great at cruising to wins in clean air from pole, but much less effective w/a really strong teammate.

    3. Russell is clear WDC material, but Norris?

    4. Nevertheless, Russell is as quick as Bottas after three practice sessions in a cockpit he’s wearing extra small shoes so he can fit his feet inside, pedals set up for Hamilton not him, still learning all the buttons, hasn’t come close to learning the limits of the car.

      In fact he was on Bottas’s pace in P1.

      And we know that Hamilton while he has an edge on Bottas it’s only a tenth.

      It’s fair to say that with a little bit more time in the car he’d beat Bottas quite convincingly.

  6. Bottas could win it or bin it and his equation won’t change – he’s already had a season to forget. Russell needs to get through the race unharmed (by his hand) and in a reasonable position to prove he can do it on Sunday and expunge his low-water mark at Imola.

  7. “I remember when he walked into my office when he was 15 or 16 years old with a presentation in his hands and the black suit with a black tie and made the case why he should be with Mercedes in the future,”

    That must have been a good PowerPoint

  8. Toto probably hallucinated that memory while on boys’ holiday with Max Mosley in Hungary.

  9. Meanwhile they analyze all his data (every single control input, steering reaction, eye movement…), as every team does, but top teams even more than others. So he’s either blatantly lying or is stupid not to use the resources at hand (and irresponsible as a team leader). This man is far from stupid, irresponsible or unprofessional. Today these lies are standard, something expected and justified; but it does feel juuust a little bit silly though, when everybody knows it’s a lie. Especially Bottas…

  10. True that. The real loser here could be HAM, given how well RUS will perform!

  11. You’re wrong, Toto.

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