Bottas 'driving better than ever' says Wolff as he eyes end to Mercedes win drought
Valtteri Bottas has a stellar record in Russia, having clinched two wins and three more podiums at Sochi – so will the Finn be able to score his first victory of 2021 – and Mercedes’ first since Silverstone – at the track on the shores of the Black Sea?
Bottas took third from the back of the grid last time out at Monza, which was a result that helped Mercedes stay at the top of the constructors’ championship given Lewis Hamilton was eliminated in a collision with Max Verstappen part-way through the race.
The soon-to-be Alfa Romeo driver took his eighth podium of the season in Italy, and his stellar record in Russia could see him reach the top step this weekend – he’s qualified fourth or better in every one of his Russian GP appearances, failing to reach the Sochi podium only in 2015 and ’16.
Ahead of thew race, Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff said: “Our aim is to pull together a strong weekend, starting in FP1 and building one session at a time. Lewis is in the 10th championship battle of his F1 career, and he is laser focused on what he needs to deliver in the next eight races.
“As for Valtteri, he's driving better than ever, like we saw in Monza – and he will be flat out every weekend. There's a calm determination about the team right now and the business end of a season, fighting for championships, is exactly what we enjoy the most.”
Mercedes also have a stunning record at Sochi, having won every Russian Grand Prix since 2014 – but Wolff says the picture looks markedly different this season with Red Bull a greater threat than at any time in the turbo-hybrid era.
“We're looking forward to racing again in Russia, it is a circuit we've gone well at over the years and both our drivers have enjoyed great results in Sochi,” continued Wolff. “We're hoping to continue our run of success in Russia but know that this year is an entirely different beast, and we're expecting another intense weekend.
“Last time out in Monza was bittersweet – a commanding performance and strong result for Valtteri but a feeling of missed points for Lewis, who had the potential to fight for the win. The pleasing thing is that the W12 looks competitive and with just eight races to go, now is the time to use our experience and focus on the details and processes which will get us over the line,” he concluded.
Mercedes are 18 points ahead of Red Bull in the constructors' championship heading to Russia, but Hamilton is five points behind Verstappen in the driver standings – the Dutchman carrying a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.