Yet to take on Lewis Hamilton in a title fight, Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas “deserves to be in a Mercedes” but adds that nothing has been decided for 2022.
This season marks Bottas’ fifth with Mercedes, the Finn joining the team in 2017 following Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement.
Although claiming nine race wins with the Brackley team, including two runner-up results in the championship, he has yet to mount a proper title challenge.
In 2019, the first season he was P2, he was 87 points behind Hamilton while last season, once again P2, he was 124 adrift despite the Brit sitting out the Sakhir Grand Prix weekend.
That weekend was, according to those looking in from the outside, the lowest point of Bottas’ season as he was upstaged by Hamilton’s replacement, Mercedes junior driver George Russell.
That led to calls for the Finn to be dropped and Russell promoted, but Mercedes stood firm on their decision to continue with Bottas.
Wolff says he “deserves” his race seat.
“For Valtteri,” the team principal said at the launch of the new W12, “he’s in the unfortunate situation for the last few years with one-year contracts.
“He functions really well with the pressure – he’s the cool Finn that is able to hold that back.
“But 2022 is a completely new year with new regulations and that’s why we just want to see how it pans out during the course of the year.
“But I’m really happy and the team of engineers is really happy and he deserves to be in a Mercedes.”
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 2, 2021
Entering a fifth season with the same line up, Hamilton also extending his stay for the year, Wolff says it is a driver pairing that works for them, after all last season they did claim a fifth successive championship double, Mercedes’ seventh in a row.
“Stability is key in every team,” he said.
“We work as a group collectively and we have two drivers that respect each other whilst racing each other hard out there.
“The development that we get from each of them is very valuable to the team.
“At the end it just works.
“We love interacting with Lewis and Valtteri and if you look back at the past it has been successful.”