Wolff insists Mercedes will not replace Bottas with Russell for 2021

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has ruled out the possibility of George Russell or any other driver replacing Valtteri Bottas in the team’s line-up for 2021.

Russell caused a stir by leading much of last weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix on a one-off appearance for the world champions in place of Lewis Hamilton, who was struck down with Covid-19.

While Hamilton is yet to confirm he will drive for Mercedes again next year, Bottas has signed a new one-year deal for 2021. Nonetheless Russell’s performance has prompted speculation Mercedes could bring him into the team as early as next year in place of Bottas.

Wolff dismissed that possibility yesterday, insisting Bottas “is going to be in our car.”

Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
2021 F1 drivers and teams
“I’m hereby confirming it, we have a contract with Valtteri, he’s going to race next year,” said Wolff. “You need to kick me quite hard in a sensitive zone for me to ever lose my morality. And I am loyal to my two race drivers in the same way I’m loyal to our junior drivers.”

With Hamilton back in the car this weekend, Russell has returned to Williams for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi today.

“George did a phenomenal job last week and he deserves to be in a great car one day,” said Wolff. “He has a contract with Williams for another year. They have been very flexible and accommodating in giving George to Mercedes this other weekend and everything is going to go its way but calmly and in a structured way.”

In a break with the team’s convention, Wolff was heard speaking to Bottas on his radio before his final flying lap in Q3 yesterday. Wolff said he urged his driver to give it “all you have” in the dying moments of qualifying after discussions between the two about how they could improve their communications.

“Every driver is different and we have strict intercom protocols that we follow,” Wolff explained. “I remember when I was a racing driver, I was annoyed by the guys that leaned over to the cockpit and shook my hands before I got going and in that respect I and the team will always adjust to the drivers’ modus operandi. And that’s why I’ve never been on the radio unless we have a critical situation in the race.

“But when I discussed with Valtteri about how we could improve our communication, he said that he felt like a more open discussion or more open communication even whilst being in the car is something that he would like to entertain.

“I said to him ‘are you sure, because I don’t want to interfere into you driving the car?’ And he said ‘no, I’m actually up for it, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while’.”

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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25 comments on “Wolff insists Mercedes will not replace Bottas with Russell for 2021”

  1. Russell did an incredible job first time out, no doubt about that, but I think a great deal of people are getting a bit carried away by that single great performance at the simplest track layout by far this season. I also don’t understand that if Bottas got called “awful” or “terrible” how people can say Russell was that amazing. I thought myself that Russell really was outstanding this race, and to be fair on Bottas, he did outqualify Russell and was faster in the 2nd stint and could well have caught up by the end. The difference between the race performance wasn’t that huge. The team really messed it up for both drivers, but more so Bottas which made his result look a bit worse than it should have been. Russell’s race admittedly did get messed up a fair bit too, but less so by the team.

    I also will add that while Russell has suddenly come from another team, had has been involved with Mercedes in testing and other things quite a few times, it’s not 100% new for him so it probably won’t have been quite as difficult as some imagined. Not tying to play down what he archived, I just don’t think there is enough evidence that Bottas isn’t more than good enough to at least have one more season alongside Hamilton.

    Bottas has been noted for his bad starts this year, but when you look across Russel’s career, his launches off the line if F1 are probably about the worst on average of any driver. And if they continued like this at Mercedes or even another team, they would be a lot more costly than at Williams. I feel like I’m being harsh on him here, but it is simply facts. He got out launched by Kubica 11/19 times they both started on the grid! Somewhat undoes his impressive qualifying statistics. And as Kubica was virtually always last, Russell didn’t really have anything else to lose, so his bad starts were sort of masked by this. He probably will have lost a lot more than one position at times had he started further up making a recovery harder

    He certainly tends to recover later on, but his iffy starts still continued quite a few times this year, though he only lost out to his team mate 3 times. But this was partly because he’s managed to qualify further up the grid. And when he’s done this, a few times again, he’s lost places within the first few corners. People have commented when I’ve mentioned this before mentioning that the car is poor. I know it is, and getting overtaken very soon after the first lap when everyone’s tyres are warmed up would be understandable and expected, but I think Russell has an issue in the preparation lap getting the car to it’s best ability to launch, as about a third of his starts in his 2 years have gone backwards. The launch isn’t really anything to do with the car and much more the driver. Look at some of the starts Kimi and Magnussen have had this year. Stroll too.

    It really will look like I’m trying to have a go at Russell, but I’m not just looking at this single brilliant result. That proves that he can and will be very capable, but it doesn’t prove consistency, not does it prove that Bottas is always like he was. If we take one result to decide everything, then base this season on the first race and Bottas should clearly replace Hamilton. Things just don’t work like that. I think Russell will keep improving, but I think it is worth him having another season at williams to improve some of the areas he’s not yet very consistent in. I do expect him to soon become regularly a better driver than Bottas, but that said, Mercedes may not want 2 drivers that are both a similar level. One line up that may be ideal if Hamilton leaves may actually be Russell and Bottas, and I would expect Russell to pretty soon be the team leader.

  2. Mercedes will still have the championship winning car next year and Hamilton as their star driver. They can quite happily stick with Bottas

    Unless they get backed into a corner with another team poaching Russell like Red Bull were in with Verstappen in 2016 they’ve little to gain upsetting the current arrangements

    Red Bull however, I think there’s a good case for them trying to grab him even if it means paying Williams off, they need some talent desperately. But even then their 2nd place is fairly secure and a better option would be getting Perez

    I’d love to see Russell up against Hamilton or Verstappen as soon as possible, but it makes little sense rushing it while contracts are in place

    1. Red Bull would be much happier to bring Norris in. They don’t think Russell is a good driver, and Helmut just a few days ago told that they’re not looking for a driver like Russell.

  3. As much as I like Bottas’s mild-mannered and honest personality, as a driver he’s proved he can’t take the fight to Lewis and he’s a bit of a waste of a great seat. I wouldn’t want to see a repeat of this season’s “title fight” anytime soon. And besides Bottas, there’s no one out there to challenge Lewis, even if Ferrari and RedBull hit the ground running next season.

    Ofcourse, there’s no way to know if Russel could be better than Bottas in the same car, but at least from what we’ve seen during the last Bahrain GP it sure looks promising.

    1. I think I know what you mean, but as long as the Mercedes cars are finishing most races in first and second places, Bottas is not a waste of a great seat. Both cars can’t win the race. From Mercedes prospective, they could hardly have a better lineup. Of course from a fan’s prospective, we would much rather see constant and spirited battles up front for the wins, but if those constant battles were between the Merc. drivers it would just be more headaches for Toto and late nights for the mechanics.

  4. Wolff is employed to do what’s best for the team. To give the team the best chance of success.

    It won’t be Wolff’s decision anyway.

    The reality is given that Russell is clearly quicker than Bottas, he would have qualified on pole yesterday.

    1. If Russell would have been on pole yesterday- involving beating Bottas, why didn’t he beat Bottas in qualifying last weekend. I know he is new to the team, but so many are coming to conclusions with little evidence. Russell has looked quicker than Bottas on the shortest most simple track of the season. It proves that he can indeed beat Bottas, but it doesn’t show that he’s already clearly quicker on a regular basis. As I said in my other post, if we base things on such little evidence, you could take the odd time a poor driver beats a great driver and then confirm that they are better. I think we need a bit more time to see Russell’s consistency.

      He was nearly beaten by his team mate in both British races, was comfortably beaten in Russia and then crashed during the safety car one race too. Not everything has been amazing about this season. I think too many people are desperate to see him in a better team when Bottas is doing a good enough job and the team know what to expect from him. At the moment, changing the line up is not necessary and it will do Russell good to continue improving and impressing first before his move. He’s looking very good, but he isn’t as good overall as that one race made him look IMO.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      13th December 2020, 15:59

      @deanfranlin Toto is not an employee, he is a partner in Mercedes AMG F1 owning 30% of the team and is both Team Principle and CEO which makes it his decision!!!! I told you he values loyalty a few days back and you didn’t believe it. Now Toto has said exactly what I told you he would say and you trot out the same rubbish again. When will you learn?

  5. Well they were loyal to junior drivers like Wehrlein and Ocon. So I think Bottas is safe.
    Anyway if Valtteri races in the reserve car then he hasn’t technically been replaced.

  6. @gechichan It’s not Bottas’s job to take the fight to Hamilton, he’s there for support and to possibly go for a win if for some reason Hamilton’s car is out of contention. Bottas has out scored Verstappen that’s what he needed to do, if Verstappen wins tonight well good on him but it is only a consolation prize.
    @deanfranklin Wolf runs the team obviously he is also part owner, he has delivered 7 WMCs for Mercedes with a big chance of 8 next year. It would be a really stupid decision for senior management to dictate or meddle with such a successful combination at this point imo.

  7. I can guarantee you if Albon had a year to run on his contract and a substitute driver came in for Max and subsequently beat Albon, RBR would have no hesitation in replacing Albon at year end.

    Wolff has a duty to give the team the best chance of winning.

    Toto should go buy a team like Lawerence Stroll if he wants to make unilateral decisions he doesn’t have to be accountable for.

    Toto is accountable to Daimler. The reality is Russell is quicker than Bottas. Russell would have likely got pole yesterday. Instead the Mercs start 2nd and 3rd on the grid. Toto now has to explain how qualifying 2nd and 3rd on the grid is better than the 1st and 3rd they would have likely qualified if Russell was in for Bottas or Hamilton.

    1. Mercedes has got the best chance of winning with both drivers on track.
      They don’t want a replay ever again of 2016 Barcelona GP, and therefore they won’t employ equal drivers. The stress it brings is simply not worth it.
      Especially not when the top drivers are as ambitious as Lewis, Michael Schumacher, or Max. They push themselves, they don’t need a teammate to push them.

    2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      13th December 2020, 16:06

      @deanfranklin Explain to whom exactly and what would he explain? That his record breaking team finished 2 cars on the podium at the last race while not developing it at at all since mid season in order to prioritise the development of next years car in order to win an 8th title for Mercedes and Daimler? Pretty easy conv TBH! Delusional! Not one thing you said is actually based on fact.

    3. petebaldwin (@)
      13th December 2020, 21:01

      37 points for 1st and 4th. 33 points for 2nd and 3rd. If Perez is as quick as we think he is, the constructors championship may be quite exciting next year….

      If Red Bull somehow win the constructors, the blame will all be on one man. Wolff.

  8. Of course they’ll keep Botts. We can’t have Lewis upstaged by Russell can we?

    And for Lewis to drive when he’s still not totally recovered, that’s just poor judgement.
    I guess he was just spooked by GR’s performance last week.

    1. The hate is confused admiration.

      1. @lums I like it. Even better in Yoda-speak “Your hate confused admiration is, your true path accept you must.”

  9. Maybe someone can help me here? With Totto confirming Merc have their engines turned down this weekend it made me think… Are engine allocations to a driver? Or a team? Did Merc have the opportunity to give GR a brand new PU last week?

    1. Yeh…thanks for that.

  10. Mercedes in the future: Hamilton retires one day, we don’t know when, Bottas becomes a terrible Barrichello, Russell goes to Mercedes and becomes a future legend.

    1. So what, at least he will earn his good money and retirement.

  11. Sigh. Well now I really hope Ferrari are back on form next year (apparently their engine for next year is looking OK?) and Red Bull can do what they’ve been able to do in the hybrid era and make a credible challenge from the start.

  12. Of course they’re keeping Bottas next year. Bettas has proved he is a reliable number 2 driver. They have 4 constructors championships in the 4 years he has been there. Why would they tamper with that unless they absolutely had to? Maybe George will force a change at some point by playing hard ball with contracts or Lewis will retire or Bottas’ performance will fade to an unacceptable number 2 level or Lewis’ COVID illness will have long term effects that impact his performance, but until something happens that affects the status quo I don’t see a change in drivers at Mercedes.

  13. Makes no sense to do so. Could make sense to drop Hamilton as he is expensive but not in the short term, he is also the most marketable.

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