Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has confirmed Valtteri Bottas will remain at the team in 2021 and explained his radio message to the Finnish driver during qualifying is part of a new style of communication between the two.
Wolff opened his team radio ahead of Bottas’ final lap in qualifying to tell his driver, “give it all you have, Valtteri”. Bottas went on to qualify second behind Max Verstappen, beating teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.05s
The Finnish driver has come under pressure in the past week after he was outperformed by Hamilton’s replacement at the Sakhir Grand Prix, George Russell.
The Mercedes team boss explained that talks this week with his driver had led to a Bottas requesting more demonstrations of support from Wolff in the future.
“It’s difficult because I’ve never talked to the drivers because I’ve felt from my experience [as a driver] that it’s a bit distracting but everybody is different,” Wolff said. “With him, we had a good talk, and, obviously when the championship was lost [to Hamilton] it’s always difficult to cope with that, and that’s why he said ‘let’s talk a little bit more’
“Every driver is different and we have strict intercom protocols that we follow and I remember when I was a racing driver I was annoyed by the guys who lean over into the cockpit and shake my hand before I got going. In that respect, I will always — and the team will always — adjust to the driver’s modus operandi.
“That’s why I’ve never been on the radio unless we have a critical situation in the race.
“What I discussed with Valtteri is how we could improve our communication and he said he wanted a more open discussion and communication, even while being in the car, as something he would like to entertain. I said, ‘are you sure?’ because I don’t want to interfere with his driving of the car, and he said, ‘no, I’m up for it and I’ve been thinking about it for a while’.”
Asked about the radio message, Bottas added: “He can always talk to us if he wants. In the last days we had a chat about different things.
“You know, we’re a team, we support each other, as we feel like. If you can support another person in the team with encouragement or certain words you do it and I’d do the same for any team member. Nothing more than that, I think it’s more of a personal thing.”
Russell’s strong performance as Hamilton’s substitute at the Sakhir Grand Prix led to suggestions that the 22-year-old could replace Bottas as early next year.
However, Wolff confirmed that the contract Bottas signed for 2021 in August remains in place for next season.
“He’s going to be in our car [in 2021], I am hereby confirming it,” Wolff said. “We have a contract with Valtteri and he is going to race for us next year.
“You need to kick me quite hard in a sensitive zone for me to ever lose my loyalty. I am loyal to my two race drivers in the same way I am loyal to our junior drivers.
“George did a phenomenal job last weekend and he deserves to be in a great car one day. He has a contract with Williams for one more year and they have been very flexible and accommodating in giving George to Mercedes this other weekend.
“Everything is going to go its way, but calmly and in a structured way.”
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