Earlier this week, Toto Wolff hit out at Kevin Magnussen for the incident in Baku which resulted in debris that robbed Valtteri Bottas of almost certain victory. At the same time, whilst not mentioning the team orders which definitely robbed the Finn of a win in Sochi, Wolff insisted that it was bad luck that cost Bottas wins in China and Bahrain also.
Now, in a move which should add an uncomfortable edge to Bottas’ Christmas and New Year celebrations – the Finn seeking to forget his “worst ever season” – Wolff has warned that the Finn must justify his seat at Mercedes.
“Every racing driver in a Formula One car has to look over his shoulder,” he told Reuters. “It is a very brutal sport where only the best ones survive and they are very well aware.
“They have made the selection of the top twenty racing drivers in the world and every single year they have to justify that they deserve the place. It is not only valid for Valtteri but all the others as well.
“Valtteri is a fierce warrior,” he insisted, “and he wouldn’t be where he is today if he was not an outstanding racing driver. I think he absolutely embraces the challenge of being team mate and competitor to Lewis Hamilton.
“I think where things have gone wrong with Valtteri in 2018 was that he was very unlucky. He could have, should have… but that doesn’t count, won three races.
“I think within any racing driver there’s a certain mental setback that happens,” admitted Wolff. “And it happened to Valtteri and he will work on it over the winter and will start the season fresh. All points go back to zero and he has the same opportunity like he has in the last year to win the driver’s title. He certainly has the talent and the intelligence.”
Of course, other than Sochi, and Wolff’s earlier reference to the Finn as “a wingman”, Bottas’ confidence will not have been helped by the fact that for the second successive season he has been handed a one-year deal… this at a time Esteban Ocon is waiting impatiently in the wings.
While he clearly has the best car at his disposal, Bottas must either accept the fact that for the foreseeable future he is destined to play Barrichello to Lewis Hamilton‘s Schumacher or seek out pastures new.