Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has stressed the importance of getting Valtteri Bottas “back to a good place” after he endured another difficult weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Bottas ran most of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit in second but was overtaken by Sebastian Vettel and the two Red Bulls in the latter part of it following a series of lock-ups. The Finn’s failure to win in Abu Dhabi means he becomes the first Mercedes driver since Michael Schumacher in 2012 not to do so in a single season.
Reflecting on Bottas’ season, Wolff believes the turning point for Bottas was the puncture he suffered in the final laps of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix while running in first — victory in Baku would have put Bottas top of the drivers’ championship for the first time in his career.
“He was really good until Baku,” Wolff said. “I think he would have won the race there without the puncture and he would have been in the lead of the championship. After a long conversation I believe that when you have no shot anymore of the championship, and you know you need to give up, it kind of damages you mentally. I hope it’s not the case, he says not, he’s a strong Finn and a warrior but now over the winter we have to pick him up again and get him back to a good place.”
Bottas was the only driver in the whole field to make a second stop in Abu Dhabi and Wolff revealed that the Finn had suffered an issue with the rear-right tyre of his Mercedes, which potentially explains why Bottas struggled in the final part of the grand prix.
”Today, after the stop, we saw some odd braking behaviour, it was on the rear-right I believe,” Wolff added. ”We couldn’t really see what it was, we could just see the balance wasn’t right, and that’s why we made the stop to change the wheel. And from then on it was a bit better. So before actually making a comment on performance, I’d rather see all the data.”