Mercedes has a point to prove at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, especially Valtteri Bottas whose future at Mercedes will be settled during Formula 1’s summer break, which follows Sunday’s race.
Last weekend’s crash during the German Grand Prix has only increased the spotlight on the Finnish driver heading into the race with a number of highly-rated candidates looming in the background keen to step into the best cockpit in the business.
“For sure it was not ideal,” Bottas said Thursday, reflecting on his Hockenheim crash. “Every race is important but when you know the team is making decision for the future … it can be very important.”
Bottas has been on one-year rolling contracts since joining Mercedes in 2017 as a sudden replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg. Last year he got the nod for 2019 only in July. This time the decision is being made even later, amid speculation he could be replaced by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
While he is mindful of the situation, he said the uncertainty will not affect his driving at the Hungaroring.
“It’s not the first time … so it’s business as usual,” Bottas told reporters. “I feel I deserve to be here. I still have lots to give, lots to get. I still haven’t achieved my goals.”
His stated goal at the start of this season was to challenge — and topple — reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.
Bottas backed that up by winning two of the first four races and even leading the F1 championship ahead of Hamilton. But he has not won any of the past seven, while Hamilton has won five.
It was a golden chance missed for Bottas last weekend, given that Hamilton collected only two points after finishing ninth.
At the time of his crash, which came two laps after Hamilton had spun his car in the same place, Bottas was pushing for a podium finish, which would have at least dented Hamilton’s championship lead. Instead, Bottas sits 41 points behind the five-time F1 champion.
“I still believe in myself as hard as I did. I know I’m still in the championship fight. Maybe some people don’t,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I can’t say that anything has changed in my driving. I am driving as well as I can. The first few races I had the wind on my side, then Lewis got it.”
Bottas and Hamilton lead F1 drivers with four pole positions each this season, proof Bottas has the single-lap speed. But Bottas concedes that he still lacks a certain level of consistency.
“It all comes down to me being at my best level every week. That’s the tricky part,” he said. “To get the maximum out of yourself in every single session.”
Big Question: Has Valtteri done enough to keep his seat with Mercedes?