F1: Verstappen and Hamilton verbally spar
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Toto Wolff has hailed the role Valtteri Bottas has played in Mercedes’ success in recent years while admitting that the UK-based outfit could have handled his race tactics better. Bottas has tipped to lose his drive for the 2022 season to George Russell.
Russell is currently on loan at Williams and raced for Mercedes throughout his junior career. Bottas has been part of the Mercedes senior team since 2017 when he replaced Nico Rosberg after the German’s shock retirement.
Speaking to GPFans Global, Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff was asked about Bottas future and whether the Finn’s opportunity with the team had gone.
Wolff responded defensively, arguing that Bottas had performed admirably given the difficult circumstances that come with racing next to someone of Lewis Hamilton’s success.
He also acknowledged that the team had on occasion failed Bottas with poor in-race decision making.
Wolff said: “I think that’s too harsh.
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“He has also had a lot of bad luck when I think about Monaco where he should have finished second on the road, and we let him down. It’s very harsh.
“And if your team-mate is a seven-time world champion, a 100-grand prix winner, obviously, that will be difficult.
“He is a great team player, he has won multiple grand prix, has been on call all the time, 53 podium appearances, and that is a solid, very important pillar for us as a team that needs to be considered.”
Wolff was then questioned about what Russell could offer the team and what the 23-year-old could learn driving alongside a serial winner like Hamilton and what Mercedes could learn from seeing him in the role.
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The Austrian replied: “There is the strategy to go with jeunesse [youth], and see how George performs next to clearly the greatest race driver of all time, and whether he can take over the baton one day when Lewis decides to call it a day.”
Russell earned his first points this season during the recent Hungarian Grand Prix, capitalising on a number of crashes to finish in a career-best eighth position.
Mercedes are expected to make a decision on the matter before the Belgian Grand Prix weekend gets underway on August 27.
F1 is currently in the midst of the three-week summer break, with many other teams also figuring out potential driver changes for 2022.
Red Bull have implied that Sergio Perez is likely to retain his seat alongside Max Verstappen for next year, however have not ruled out looking elsewhere or promoting from sister team AlphaTauri.
Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko has said that they will announce their drivers for 2022 either at the Belgian Grand Prix or during the following week.
The season will return with Hamilton eight points ahead of Verstappen amidst worsening relations between the two favourites for the title and their teams.
Red Bull remain furious about the now infamous crash at Silverstone between the runaway title rivals and Bottas’ subsequent mistake in Hungary.
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