Valtteri Bottas is “going to race” for Mercedes next season with Toto Wolff officially putting an end to rumours George Russell could be in the car.
Although Bottas signed a new one-year contract extension with Mercedes back in August, his place at the team was – at least for pundits and fans – under threat at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Partnering Russell in a once-off, Bottas may have beaten the Williams driver in qualifying and in the race classification but it was very much Russell’s weekend.
He was on course for the win only for Mercedes to implode in a pit stop, costing the Brit his shot at a first win.
Almost immediately those on the outside called for Mercedes to put Russell in the car alongside Lewis Hamilton for 2021, believing the 22-year-old will offer the reigning World Champion a proper challenge.
Mercedes have said no.
“He [Bottas] is going to be in our car, I’m hereby confirming it,” he told Autosport. “We have a contract with Valtteri.
“He’s going to race next year. You need to kick me quite hard in a sensitive zone for me to ever lose my loyalty. And I am loyal to my two race drivers.
“In the same way. I’m loyal to our junior drivers. George did a phenomenal job last weekend. He deserves to be in a great car one day. He has a contract with Williams for another year.
“They have been very flexible and accommodating in having George, giving George to Mercedes this other weekend, and everything is going to go its way. But calmly, and in a structured way.”
This year Bottas once again lost the World title to Hamilton, second in the standings some 124 points behind his team-mate despite the Brit sitting out the Sakhir race.
Losing to Russell, who Wolff says had “nothing to lose” in his Mercedes debut, was just yet another difficult situation for Bottas to have to deal with.
Wolff revealed he had a “good talk” with his driver and plans to do that more often in 2021.
“I can relate to Valtteri’s situation, because you’re having this tremendously fast team-mate who has won seven World Championships, and Valtteri has shown really great performances,” Wolff said.
“He won the first race in Austria, and he’s been on pole several times, and he should have won more races if it wasn’t for red flags or punctures.
“And then losing it again when bad luck was really part of your campaign feels miserable, and in that respect, I think that a driver can sometimes then slip into a bubble where you feel that things are going against you.
“Last weekend was all around George. George had nothing to lose, and Valtteri had nothing to gain.
“In that respect, we had a good talk, an intelligent talk between us.
“It wasn’t like a eureka moment that suddenly I’ve been talking to him, I can just relate to his situation, and we’ve decided that we want to talk to each other more.”