Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has denied the suggestion that another one-year deal for Valtteri Bottas shows a “lack of trust”.
Bottas joined the Silver Arrows ahead of the 2017 season, taking over from Nico Rosberg who retired after winning the 2016 World Championship.
And whilst Bottas hasn’t been able to truly challenge Lewis Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship since, he has done more than enough to ensure Mercedes’ run of Constructors’ Championships has stretched to six in a row.
But a feature of Bottas’ time with Mercedes has been the one-year contracts which he has always received, and a new one has been announced for 2021 despite talk of Mercedes junior George Russell possibly earning a promotion to race alongside Hamilton.
The one-year deals show that the Silver Arrows want to assess Bottas’ performance every year, but Wolff says it does not show a lack of trust from the team in Bottas’ abilities.
Instead, this latest one is apparently to allow for Mercedes to asses the driver market for 2022 when Formula 1 undergoes a major rules change.
“With Valtteri it’s the same situation as Lewis,” Wolff explained in the FIA press conference.
“We have an absolute alignment. They are very realistic. There is not a manager on the table who tries to optimise beyond a possible breaking point.
“And Valtteri was always like that. We are both not optimisers to the end to make one party leave the table with a bad feeling, so the discussion about renewing the contract took five minutes.
“In 2022 the regulations change. We love our current line-up, we respect the two, and we need to be open and flexible and see what happens beyond that.
“It doesn’t mean that we haven’t got any trust in either Valtteri or Lewis but it’s just important to have the option to look at the movements in the whole driver market.”
Speaking to Motorsport.com about his latest extension, Bottas said: “I think everything went pretty smooth this time.
“Obviously it’s special circumstances, and agreed before we knew how the season was going to be that we would hopefully get something done by, let’s say, June. But of course we didn’t race even before June.
“We just said let’s wait and see, let’s focus on the first few races and eventually speak, then it just came pretty naturally.
“[It] was not that tricky. We could agree things pretty easy and smoothly.
“There was no outside distraction either. It was good, definitely didn’t hurt my performance at any of these first few races. It was not on my mind. That’s how it should be done.”
He also said his new deal was effectively a “copy and paste” of the old one.
“For me at least, it was pretty much copy and paste with many things,” he said.
“There are always some things you might discuss, but everything was really straightforward.
“I’m sure it’s more difficult for the lawyers and the people having to do the paperwork. I just do my signature. For me it’s easy!”