‘I know the ups are on the way’ says Bottas, as he insists reports he will leave Mercedes are ‘speculation’
Valtteri Bottas’ worst start to a season with Mercedes has led to much speculation that this could be his final year with the team. But speculation, Bottas insisted, was all it was, with the Finn saying that his key focus now was on getting back to winning ways rather than worrying about the future.
A crash with Mercedes protege George Russell at Imola, a wheel getting stuck on his car in Monaco and a lacklustre weekend in Baku that saw him finish P12 on pure pace all mean that Bottas has failed to score at three out of six races so far this year, with a best finish of P3 in the races he has finished – with Bottas currently a lowly P6 in the drivers’ standings, with less than half the points of team mate Lewis Hamilton and championship leader Max Verstappen.
And he admitted ahead of the French Grand Prix that his current situation did make him feel uncomfortable.
“All we want to do [at Mercedes] is win, that is our goal every single race and if we're not winning, it's not comfortable for anyone and makes us work even harder,” said Bottas.
“And now, if I look back to this start of the season, which has been far from ideal for many reasons and many unlucky events, it's never a comfortable feeling when you don't have the season that you'd like to have so far.
“But that is how it is, everything in life and sport goes up and down,” added Bottas. “I know the ups are on the way, the good moments, and the team knows that as well. I feel there's a good support from the team which makes it easier to handle.
“We've analysed everything again from the last race that went wrong and it's now full focus for the team for this triple header. It's only the seventh round of 23 so a long, long way to go, but at the moment, as a team, we're not on the up I would say overall. But we aim to be.”
Bottas was also asked at the Circuit Paul Ricard to clarify a rumour that he had already been informed by Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff that he wouldn’t be competing for the team in 2022, with Bottas replying: “With Toto, we speak often, that's normal for us, and we've spoken lately as normal but I can't confirm that – at least no one's told me!
“So yeah, that's not true, that's speculation but those kind of speculations aren't made up of any facts, they are made up for the clicks, and that's how it goes... For now, the gut [feeling] is not saying anything [about my future]. I just want to win races and get the results that I'm aiming for personally.”
Current Williams driver Russell – who enjoyed a one-off outing for Mercedes at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, coming close to winning the race on his Silver Arrows debut – has been linked with a moved to the team should Mercedes opt to switch up their line-up.
But Bottas said he wanted to make it an “easy decision” for Mercedes to decide to keep him.
“Everyone knows how the beginning of my season has been, and for sure some people have quite a short memory, therefore they forget why I have this bad result, why I have this amount of points,” he said.
“So I want to make sure it’s going to be an easy decision for [Mercedes to keep me] for the future. That’s my goal and that’s the only thing really now on my mind, focusing on the next races and go from there.
“I don’t need to worry about whether it’s going to be George, one possibility, or anyone else,” Bottas added. “That’s not on my mind. I just want to win.”
Meanwhile Russell, too, downplayed his future when asked about it at Paul Ricard.
“Obviously I’m aware of all of the speculation but right now I’m just enjoying driving race by race,” said Russell. “Obviously I want to get my future nailed down at some point but right now I’m just focussed on this weekend.
“Nothing is set in stone for next year,” Russell added. “I’m still a Williams driver, I haven’t signed any contracts beyond [this year] so I’m just fully focussed on my job at the moment, as I said, hopefully my future gets settled one way or another maybe come the summer break.”