Valtteri Bottas says he does not feel any additional pressure from a report that he could be replace by George Russell this season, describing the story as “bulls• • t”.
British newspaper the Daily Mail claims Bottas could be replaced by Russell mid-season, citing an anonymous team source as saying Mercedes is losing faith with the Finn. While the report has been widely dismissed, Bottas was asked if it could prove destabilizing to him to hear talks about his future but insists he knows the claims are false.
“No, because I know that I’m not going to be replaced in the middle of the season,” Bottas said. “As a team we don’t do that — I have a contract for this year and I think there’s only one team that does that kind of things in Formula 1 and we’re not that team. So, no pressure from my side. We know how things are, there’s bulls• • t around; that’s part of the sport.”
Despite slipping from pole to third in Portugal last time out and having seen Max Verstappen beat him in all three races, Bottas says the strength of Red Bull this season could prove beneficial to him.
“I think that if we’re a clear step ahead, the gap between the drivers could be big and you could still get good results. This year it’s really clear if you drop a bit of pace you can easily drop one or two places and that’s how it should be.
“So, indeed, if I manage to do my job as well as I can, hopefully that will be very visible and the talking will stop pretty quickly. So, yes, I agree, that’s a good thing.
“I haven’t thought about next year, really. As I said earlier, my full focus is on this year and now, because that’s all that matters and normally that will bring a good future. I’ve no idea and at the moment I don’t care — I just want to focus on this year and putting every single thought and every bit of energy I have into that.”
Lewis Hamilton defended his teammate after the report, stating his belief that they are the strongest pairing Mercedes could have.
“To be really honest I’ve not given it a lot of thought, but from what I’ve experienced with the relationship with Valtteri, he’s been an amazing teammate as I’ve always said,” Hamilton said. “If I’m really honest I think we have the best line-up currently in terms of deliverables, in terms of the equilibrium we have within our team, and the general knowledge in terms of moving our car forward.
“At some stage it’s going to shift, it’s going to change — I’m not going to be here forever, Valtteri won’t be here forever — but I think we’ve delivered time and time again over the years and we continue to. Valtteri just got pole the last race. It’s only the fourth race; I think people need to give him a break and let him focus on doing what he’s doing.”