Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas has played-down speculation that he is in a ‘showdown’ with Sakhir GP replacement George Russell for his Formula 1 seat, insisting his immediate future remains secure regardless of the outcome.
Falling short for the fourth-straight year in his attempt to beat teammate Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s championship, speculation has been mounting all season that the Finn’s days at Mercedes are numbered, with the latest in a long line of one-year contract extensions only guaranteeing him a seat to the end of 2021.
Compounding matters is the hype around 2018 GP2 champion Russell, a Mercedes junior, who has managed to impress in his two-year stint with Williams despite an underwhelming car, and is widely expected to drive for the Silver Arrows in the next few years.
And yet while the pressure on Bottas might seem to have intensified with Russell stepping in as a replacement for the ill Hamilton this weekend, the Finn suggests more is being made of the situation than what it is.
“I know that you like to speculate things and create drama and ‘showdowns’ etc,” he told the reporters on Thursday. “But I doubt George thinks that way and at least I don’t.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for George, a great opportunity to learn a lot and to show what we can do with the team.
“And from my side, as a racing driver of course you always want to be ahead of your team-mate – whether it’s Lewis Hamilton or George Russell or anyone else, it doesn’t matter.
“I also have a job to do for the last three races of the season – I have my own motivation, which is trying to win the remaining races.
“That’s obviously for me the only goal – and trying to maximise all the learnings I can for next year and end the season on a positive way that could hopefully help me [at the] start of next year.
“I have a contract for next year, I have clear targets for myself for next year – the team as well – so for me everything is really simple. No pressure from my side.”
Pressed on the ramifications of Russell beating him for his chances of staying in 2022, Bottas admitted “it wouldn’t look so good”, but said he wasn’t thinking in such terms.
“I haven’t really thought about it and it’s difficult to know what to expect from George in terms of performance,” Bottas said. “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.”