Valtteri Bottas’ form has been far from great in the last couple of races. An unfortunate issue to his front tyre during the Monaco Grand Prix caused him to retire, and his lack of pace in Baku put him in no condition to finish higher than 12th.
As we have seen in 2020, with several shuffles and new entries, the drivers’ market is always a hot topic in Formula One. The Finn will be out-of-contract at the end of the season so he is eager to settle his future at Mercedes by the summer, as he is well aware that time is essential for securing a full-time seat in Formula 1.
Bottas was asked in Baku whether he had talked with Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff about a possible extension beyond 2021.
"First of all, we haven't yet spoken anything because it's a pretty demanding championship and you know how much it matters to have working peace, let's say, so you can focus on the main thing, which is performance," he said.
"That time will come, for sure. It's been not yet, but obviously, time flies and especially soon when we go to triple headers etcetera, we won't really have time. I would imagine that naturally in the next month or so maybe we'll start to speak.
“I know from previous experience, the sooner you can sort out things it's better for everyone. So it will come soon, but not yet”, concluded the Finnish driver.
After last year changes, McLaren, Ferrari and Aston Martin have their line-ups settled for the upcoming season, with a few drivers such as Leclerc and Verstappen having multi-years contracts.
For Mercedes, it is a totally different story. Both of their drivers’ contracts are expiring at the end of this season and while seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton will supposedly renew again – hopefully without repeating the 2020 saga, dragging talks into the winter break – Bottas’ future is not so clearly delineated.
Bottas said he has "a good few years" to offer in F1 when asked where his future could be.
"I'm quite open-minded like in life in general, you need to always take opportunities and you just never know what's around the corner. And that's, also having clear goals, what you're pushing for, it has taken me this far, and yes [I] always want to follow my heart and follow my passion”, he explained.
"I am still enjoying Formula 1, of course, very much and racing at the front, and I really love it and I still enjoy it as much as I did, for example, in my first year with Mercedes, no doubt"
"If I look at the big picture, for sure I still have a good few years in me. I feel like year on year I keep improving on certain areas and keep getting better. I'm quite far from the oldest drivers on the grid so, in theory, I still have time, but you just don't know what the future holds. I take it weekend by the weekend and see what comes," he concluded.
Bottas’ plans could however be ruined by one of the hottest young talents in Formula 1 who, however, is driving for one of the worst-performing teams so far.
George Russell, who is in Formula One since 2017, could be one of the protagonists in the driver market this year. Current Williams driver revealed that, with such a hectic F1 calendar, he is willing to get his future sorted as soon as possible.
“I haven’t really spoken about it [with Toto], that’s always just been my mindset [to conclude the talks quickly],” revealed Russell in an interview with F1.
“It’s in everyone’s best interest. I’m just focused on the here and now really, but I’m sure everything will be sorted no later than the end of the summer break really.
Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff, who also guides Russell’s career, speaking earlier in the year, said he, too, was keen to resolve driver talks as soon as possible.
“We don’t want to leave it until January to confirm the two drivers,” said Wolff, hoping not to prolong contract negotiations for months as it happened for Hamilton in the winter.
“Obviously for next year [with the new regulations], there are lots of balls in the air and we will always try to do the best for the team long-term, while also giving total loyalty to our current driver line-up.
"We are not doubting either Valtteri or Lewis, but discussions obviously are going to happen”, concluded Wolff.
These words, however, came earlier than Bottas’ disastrous performances. We’ll see whether they’ll have a role in defining the Finn and the young British talent’s future.