Toto Wolff on why it was the right time for Valtteri Bottas to leave Mercedes

Sam Cooper
Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff. Monaco May 2018

Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff in conversation. Monaco May 2018

Toto Wolff believes that Valtteri Bottas left Mercedes at the right time and that he “seems happier” now that he is out of the “pressure cooker” of Mercedes.

The Finn left the Silver Arrows after five seasons at the team while George Russell made the move up from Williams to replace him.

Bottas was part of Mercedes’ dominant run but still faced his critics for never really challenging team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Even Max Verstappen has suggested as much, using Bottas as the perfect example of a second driver who accepts his place in the food chain.

But the Finn is enjoying a new lease of life as the team leader at Alfa Romeo and while the car may not be capable of producing the same results as his former ride, he does appear to be enjoying life more.

When reflecting on Bottas’ departure, Mercedes boss Wolff said he believed it was the right time for a change of scene.

“I think that it was also a good moment for Valtteri to leave the team,” he explained to Channel 4. “Because the pressure was enormous on him and he didn’t want to be a wingman.

“I think having released him from that pressure now he’s racing with Alfa, it is completely different and he seems also happier for me rather than this pressure cooker at Mercedes.”

Even before it had been officially announced, it was long speculated that Russell was being prepared as Bottas’ successor and Wolff has admitted he always wanted the Brit in the car but would not do it until Bottas had another seat.

“In terms of this decision making [of when to bring Russell to Mercedes] for myself, I knew pretty early that I wanted to have George in the car, but I didn’t commit to George before I knew that Valtteri had found a good place.

“I didn’t commit to him and I didn’t communicate to anybody outside because that is the respect I have for people that I care [about].

“When Valtteri’s team was done with Sauber over August, over the break period, then I went back to George and told him while you’re in, we want you to be in the car knowing that Valtteri had his place.

“And I said to George, because obviously it was a long period for him to wait, I said ‘I will do the same for you’ and that I think he understood.”

Bottas himself did admit to PlanetF1.com that he missed Mercedes but also said there was no other team he wanted to race for than Alfa Romeo.

“Of course, you’re always missing all the previous teams in some way,” he told PlanetF1, when asked if there was still a part of him that missed racing for the Brackley-based constructor.

“No doubt , I miss Williams, I miss Mercedes, obviously I got to know many people there.

“But, like I’ve said earlier this year, still my feeling is I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at the moment.”

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