Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits Valtteri Bottas “did not shine” in what was a dismal Sakhir Grand Prix for the team.
Ever since joining Mercedes back in 2017, Bottas has struggled to reach the bar set by Lewis Hamilton, so with the Briton absent for the Sakhir Grand Prix after contracting COVID-19, the perfect opportunity presented itself for Bottas to step up as a team leader.
Qualifying went smoothly enough as Bottas put the W11 on pole, even if a margin of only 0.026s over George Russell who was making his Mercedes debut was a little less convincing than many were expecting.
But when George Russell got the better start and jumped Bottas at Turn 1 to take the lead of the race, the alarm bells certainly started ringing.
After the first stops Russell had built up an eight-second lead over Bottas, and though that gap was reducing, the Safety Car and Mercedes blunder in the pits meant we never got to see what Bottas had in response to his stand-in team-mate.
But when speaking to Sky Germany, Wolff’s response to Bottas’ performance was worryingly short and blunt.
“I need to talk with [Valtteri] and his crew – but yeah, he did not shine today,” he said.
Even seven-time world champions can have bad days at the office 😦
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 7, 2020
Bottas certainly was done no favours when Mercedes sent him back out on the same hard tyres he was hoping to ditch, though it’s worth pointing out that Sergio Perez won the Sakhir Grand Prix with hard tyres that were two laps older than Bottas’ as he crossed the line.
“Sorry for the mix-up, but I think we need to be a lot better than this,” said Bottas’ race engineer Riccardo Musconi at the conclusion of the Sakhir GP.
Bottas is already signed up for 2021 at Mercedes, and Wolff dismissed any suggestion that they could look to trade him in for Russell for next year.
“He’s a Williams driver, and is signed up to Williams, and our driver line-up is Valtteri and Lewis,” said Wolff.
“So I don’t see this as a realistic situation at that moment of time .
“But I can understand that it would be an interesting situation, both in the team and maybe a bit of a wild ride for all of us.
“Maybe we’ll have that in the future.”