Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has branded talk of swapping Valtteri Bottas for George Russell mid-season as “nonsense”.
It had been a slow start to the season for Bottas, with Imola a particular low point as he collided with Russell while battling at the back end of the points.
The Portuguese Grand Prix though was a far improved performance as the Finn took pole position, and while unable to turn that into victory he did have a good chance at P2 before a sensor issue saw him fall back from the gearbox of Max Verstappen.
Still though a report emerged after the race that Mercedes engineers had lost faith in Bottas and wanted Russell promoted to the team before the season was over.
“There is some unrest at the factory about Valtteri,” the engineer allegedly told the Daily Mail.
“He is not up to it, which was made clearer by the job we saw Russell do in Bahrain.”
But now Wolff has stepped in to quash the talk as simply “nonsense”.
“Nonsense. Bottas is really good, he can compete with anyone in the field,” Wolff told OE24.
“And again and again he is able to drive faster than Lewis, as he did last time in Portimao qualifying. But in terms of the consistency, Lewis is deservedly World Champion.”
Bottas has also denied the rumours, saying Mercedes is not a team that chops and changes drivers like others do.
“I know that I’m not going to be replaced in the middle of the season, as a team, we don’t do that,” he told the media on Thursday.
“I have a contract for this year and I believe there’s only one team that does that kind of thing in F1 and we’re not that.
“So [there’s] no pressure from my side. I know how things are and there’s always bulls**t around. That’s part of the sport.”
Mercedes left Portimao with the lead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships as they look to make it eight in a row in both departments.
Red Bull though are growing tired of being stung by track limits, having now lost a race win, pole position and fastest lap as a result.
Wolff admitted that changes are needed to how track limits are used, believing they should be restricted to corners where there is a crash hazard.
“The track limits are bland because the viewer does not understand why laps are denied. For the FIA, this is a tightrope walk: when people start going straight in chicanes, it becomes dangerous,” said the Austrian.
“I would be in favour of using track limits only for corners with a crash hazard.”