Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was “just what the doctor ordered” for Valtteri Bottas after a tough second half of the year.
Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams over the winter as a replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg and duly impressed at the start of the season, taking pole position in his third race in Bahrain and winning the following round in Russia. However, after a strong start, Bottas struggled following the summer break, and Wolff says back-to-back pole positions and a race win in Abu Dhabi is exactly what the Finn needed going into the winter.
“I think very important because he had a very strong qualifying session and a very strong race that he was in control of all the time, and the racing between him and Lewis,” Wolff said. “I think carrying all of the momentum with a race win through the winter after a difficult time is probably just what the doctor ordered for him.”
While Bottas failed to convert pole position into victory in Brazil two weeks ago, this weekend saw him withstand pressure from teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout to take his third victory of the season, something Wolff says highlights his recent improvements.
“He’s a Finn – I could never see visually that it was impacting him. He said that, but I think with the strength of his character he tracked back. Every race there was better performances. Brazil qualifying was good, the race less so. But he knew that. Then he delivered an exceptional weekend here in Abu Dhabi.”
While happy with the performance of his drivers in securing a dominant one-two, Wolff was less enthused by the quality of racing itself on Sunday, saying the Yas Marina Circuit is one of the worst for overtaking with higher-downforce cars.
“I think the race itself wasn’t very spectacular. The championship was decided, and that plays a role. Obviously with the new regulations of cars… These cars are extremely difficult to overtake. You could see that between [Kimi] Raikkonen and [Max] Verstappen and the same between Valtteri and Lewis.
“A track like Abu Dhabi is probably one where you can see that the effect is the worst. It was why we saw a procession of cars, rather than an exciting race.”