2021 hasn't been an easy year so far for Valtteri Bottas, who's having his worst beginning of season ever with Mercedes. The Finnish driver has been only three times on the podium, always on the lower step, and in the drivers' standings, he has fallen behind not only his teammate Lewis Hamilton and both Red Bull drivers, but also McLaren's Lando Norris, the only driver to score points in every race.
After two pointless races, in Monaco and Baku, Bottas had shown good pace at Le Castellet, even topping a practice session, but in the race he had to settle for P4, passed by Sergio Perez in the final laps of the race.
The Finn wasn't happy with Mercedes's single stop strategy that cost him the podium, and made it clear during the race, but, as he returned on the topic in today's press conference, that team radio isn't a sign of a marred relationship with the German team:
“I can be very direct on that, that perception is completely false. We have a good relationship with the team. There are no issues. Those kind of situations, they’re normal."
Clear communication is a key factor to good team dynamics: "I’m sure that not all the things have been broadcast in the past, and what has brought us this far as a team has always been being direct, and has always being honest on your feelings, and if you feel there is a place for improvement."
“So it’s nothing new, and everything is good," he summed up.
Team Principal Toto Wolff had stated that he "loved" seeing Bottas "speaking his mind", adding that he likes the "progression" seen in his driving. While not sharing his positivity towards the race, Bottas opened up about how emotional racing can be:
"I’m glad if he liked it, but I wasn’t that happy obviously in that situation. But that’s racing, that’s emotions. It’s so hard to describe the feeling when you’re in the car. We’re not at a tea party, we’re in an elite top sport"
At Mercedes since 2017, he still wants to prove himself, especially after his and his team's quite underwhelming recent performances: “I want to do well, I want the team to do well. There are emotions, even for a Finn.”
Bottas was asked about his contract situation too, as his current deal expires at the end of the season. Despite the increasing rumours that link Williams driver George Russell to Mercedes, he isn't worried about the future:
"Everyone knows how this sport works: if you make results, you will earn your place where you deserve to be. If you don’t make results, and the team feels like they need to change the driver, then they’ll change the driver. It’s very simple in this sport."
The Finn thinks that it's still too early in the season to talk about a new deal, and is confident that Mercedes knows his value:
"Again, I’m just going back that there’s 16 races to go. The team knows what I’m capable of, they know how valuable I’ve been in the recent years of getting the championship, etc."
The only important thing to focus on at the moment, with the Austrian races approaching, is racing, and to perform at his best, maybe hoping for a win like last year's, to help reduce the gap to Red Bull in the constructors' championship:
“It’s not yet time for those discussions. We’re now in the beginning of the triple header, that’s the focus now, and I’m sure in the off weeks we’ll have time to discuss when it’s going to be the time."
"But that’s the situation, and that’s where I’m at. I need to try and maximise. It’s simple," he concluded.
VB 💙’s Austria. Pass it on. 🗣 pic.twitter.com/ZzvKes1mLY— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 24, 2021