Valtteri Bottas admits he needs to avoid being beaten in a normal race by George Russell but sees the challenge as a positive chance for him at this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell will replace Lewis Hamilton in this weekend’s race in Bahrain after the world champion tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, marking the first time Hamilton will miss a race in his F1 career. As a young Mercedes driver, Russell has been tipped as a future replacement for Bottas and when asked what it might do for his career if he was beaten by Hamilton’s replacement, the Finn said it’s a situation he’ll try to ensure he doesn’t face.
“Quite a punchy question!” Bottas said. “I haven’t really thought about it and it’s difficult to know what to expect from George in terms of performance. He knows the team well but also it’s a different car, lots of new things, and also I don’t really know what to say to that question. I haven’t thought it in that sense.
“If he beats me, yeah for sure it wouldn’t look so good on me if I have a normal race and if he beats me fair and square. So obviously I’ll try and avoid that but I’m not a person who thinks like that — I try and turn things into motivation through positive and that’s my mindset for this weekend.”
Bottas says the opportunity for Russell doesn’t constitute a showdown for the 2022 Mercedes seat, especially given his own chance to continue to stake his claim with the team next year.
“Many people can think that way and it’s also you guys making that kind of thing up, because I know you like to speculate things and create drama and showdowns, etc., but I doubt George thinks that way and at least I don’t.
“It’s a really great opportunity for George to learn a lot, and show what he can do with the team. And for my side as a racing driver of course you want to be ahead of your teammate whether it’s Lewis, George or anyone else — it doesn’t matter.
“I have a job to do for the last two races, I have my own motivation, which is to try and win the remaining races. That’s for me the goal, and to maximize the learnings and end the season in a positive way that can help for 2021. I have a contract, clear targets; for me everything is really simple, no pressure.”