Bottas: Creating tension would have harmed Merc career

Michelle Foster
Valtteri Bottas gives Lewis Hamilton a thumb up. Turkey October 2021

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas gives his team-mate Lewis Hamilton a thumb up. Turkey October 2021

Valtteri Bottas believes if he hadn’t accepted his number two role at Mercedes he would have created tension within the team, and that could have cost him his race seat.

Bottas joined Mercedes in 2017, replacing Nico Rosberg after the German beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 World title.

Both motorsport boss Toto Wolff and non-executive director Niki Lauda found themselves having to mediate between the feuding drivers with their ever-growing rivalry during their four years at Mercedes, three of which were spent fighting for the title, putting an end to what had been a boyhood friendship.

Wolff was determined to avoid a repeat situation when he signed Bottas.

Although the Finn joined the team dreaming of winning World titles, it wasn’t long before his boss labelled him a “sensational wingman”, a role that Bottas would play through to end of his five seasons with the Brackley squad.

But with all five of those seasons one-year contracts, Bottas says he never felt secure enough to try rock the boat.

Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff in conversation. Monaco May 2018

Asked by the Beyond The Grid podcast if slotting into that number two role early in his Mercedes career cost him a shot at a World title, he said: “If only I knew the answer to that, if there’s something I would have done different, how it would have impacted [my chances].

“All I know [is] that if I hadn’t been such a team player, there would have been more tension in the team.

“That would mean less cooperation between me and Lewis. That would mean, in long term, not as good performance as a team.

“Because, if there’s harmony, if we can work together, then we’re playing for [the] long term, for the best interests of the team. We can develop the car together and we can discuss things openly. I’ll always try to think about that.

“Plus, there’s been always this factor that I’ve been always on [a] one-year contract, and if I start playing around, what happens then?

“Also not having the the knowledge of the future and what happens if I start to not to listen to the team or team orders. It’s been always a factor as well.”

Bottas’ first obvious wingman moment was at the 2018 Russian Grand Prix where, on course for the race win, he was ordered by Mercedes to ‘let Lewis by’.

“It was tough,” he said. “Obviously I made a decision, I did it although it was like biting my own teeth.

“It really didn’t feel natural, not right, because I’m a racer but I did it for the team.

“I think at the moment I lost a certain sense of… like everything became a bit more tricky after that for the rest of the season as I realised my role is now basically just helping.

 

“And I couldn’t really digest that.”

After five years with Mercedes, Bottas will race for Alfa Romeo in the 2022 championship, partnering rookie driver Guanyu Zhou.

 

PlanetF1 Verdict

 

Bottas was worried creating Mercedes tension

Valtteri Bottas was worried he'd create tension if he tried to rock the boat at Mercedes.