Valtteri Bottas emphatically shot down speculation from media that he could be replaced as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate mid-season. He insisted that such talk was just part of the F1 business.
The Finn finds himself 37 points behind Hamilton and with a contract expiring at the end of the year. He hasn’t had the greatest of starts to the season, sitting fourth overall.
The Daily Mail reported this week that Bottas could be given his marching orders and stated that an anonymous Mercedes engineer had suggested “some unrest” in the Mercedes factory regarding the driver.
“I know that I’m not going to be replaced in the middle of the season,” Bottas told reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix when asked if he found the rumours distracting.
“As a team, we don’t do that. I have a contract for this year and I think there’s only one team that does that kind of thing in F1 and we’re not that (team). So no pressure from my side and I know how things are.”
Bottas’ dig may have been intended for Red Bull, who have had the most mid-season switches in recent years. Ever since Max Verstappen made his debut, he has had far more teammates than the average driver.
Mercedes team Principal Toto Wolff will be aware of Bottas’ frustrations with the new season. He has already recognised after last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix that a sensor failure had hampered Bottas in the battle for second place.
“We let him down with the engine that went into a safety mode,” he had said then. “Like many times, it could have worked for Valtteri and we were pushing hard and continue to support him and see what he is capable of doing in Barcelona.”
When asked whether he expected to be at Mercedes next season, Bottas replied, “I don’t know. It’s early days. I haven’t thought about it really. At the moment I don’t care. I’m just focusing on this year.”