Toto Wolffs heartwarming Valtteri Bottas message despite Finns Mercedes axe

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has hailed Valtteri Bottas as “better than he thinks” during an affection moment with the outgoing driver, despite replacing the Finn for up-and-coming star George Russell next season.

The 31-year-old has spent five seasons alongside Mercedes, helping them to win five back-to-back Constructors’ Championship titles alongside Lewis Hamilton, before being told earlier this season he would be getting axed from the team.

After months of speculation earlier in the year, it was finally announced ahead of the Belgium Grand Prix that Bottas would be signing for Alfa Romeo, making way for the 24-year-old at Mercedes.

The Finn has spent the past five seasons playing second fiddle to Hamilton, with his future boss Frederic Vasseur admitting the offer would see him start fresh, however first he would have to see the season out with Mercedes.

During a YouTube video, Wolff and Bottas are shown guessing Bottas’ accolades at the team, as the Finn scribbled the results on his helmet sitting between the pair.

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While discussing front-row starts, Bottas thought throughout his career at Mercedes he had 31 before being corrected that it was in fact 43.

Affectionately, Wolff said: “You are so much better than you think.”

Bottas’ replacement means Hamilton will be alongside a driver who is over a decade younger than him next season, after a contentious end to the 2021 season.

Verstappen was named world champion after a controversial finish in Abu Dhabi, in which Mercedes fiercely fought that they had been wrongly treated.

But for Bottas, his final race for Mercedes ended with a P6 finish before he partners with Chinese driver Guanyu Zhou next season.

After talking about how many race starts the Finn had at Mercedes, Wolff said: “You go mucking a bit with a sabbatical with Alfa, and then we see how many more we can add.”

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Bottas replied: “That’s the beauty of this sport, you never know what comes ahead of you, at least I know for the next few years, but then I don’t know.

With a smile Wolff responded: “You’re still so young..” but turned his attention back to the helmet and asked Bottas if he could keep it, adding: “I have one of yours, I have the first race victory, but you are only renting it to me.

“I have it in my office staying there and one day your kids should have it. It’s not mine.”

Mercedes threw a huge farewell for Bottas as he was driven off into the sunset on Saturday.

“It’s my last day at the Mercedes factory and it has been emotional,” said Bottas.

“It has been nice to see all of the people and I have really felt proud and privileged to be able to be with the team for the five years and in all of those years getting the constructors’ title.

“Also, [there were] some FIA drivers’ championship trophies for me. Not the winning one, but some other trophies which is something I guess.

“Also, to everyone in the team that I said goodbye to, it was a really special day. Thank you.”

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