Bottas reveals he rejected Wolff’s offer of new Mercedes contract

Valtteri Bottas won 10 races with Mercedes between 2017 and 2021, but was never able to mount a sustained title challenge.

Toto Wolff and Valtteri Bottas in 2019.v1

Former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has revealed that there were no complex negotiations with the team regarding his exit, and he knew he had to leave when team principal Toto Wolff could not offer him a longer contract.

Bottas joined Mercedes in 2017 to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg, who had just claimed the championship in 2016.

The Finn claimed three race wins that year and, despite a difficult second half of the season, was rewarded with a one-year contract extension for 2018.

Sir Lewis Hamilton won the championship on four occasions during his time partnering Bottas, and this meant a support role for the 32-year-old, particularly at the Russian Grand Prix of 2018 when he had to gift the win to his team-mate.

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Further, persistent one-year deals led to a bitter lack of job security which had begun to play on Bottas’ mind.

The 10-time race winner would then leave Mercedes at the end of last season to join Alfa Romeo, fed up with having to fight just to earn one more season.

As a result, he explains that the conversation with Wolff as to whether he would stay with the eight-time constructors’ champions was an easy one.

“It was honestly like we agreed,” he said on the Beyond The Grid podcast.

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“It was not like he told me. He knew that, at some point, we need to make decisions, and, already, I had decided myself that if I can’t get two years or more with Mercedes, I’m definitely going to go for something new.”

The 32-year-old had no hesitations once he knew that Wolff could put nothing more on the table.

“And it was a simple question of, can he offer me more than two years, two years or more? And he said, no, he can’t at this moment, and then it was quite easy.”

Bottas has been replaced at the Brackley-based team by George Russell in 2021, with the Briton signing from Williams.

Russell had been part of the Mercedes junior programme since 2017, and scored a podium at last year’s bizarre Belgian Grand Prix.

He deputised for Hamilton when the seven-time champion came down with COVID-19 in 2020, and out-performed Bottas for much of the Sakhir Grand Prix before an amalgamation of unfortunate circumstances denied him his maiden Formula 1 victory.

As such, the Finn sees Russell as the obvious choice for Mercedes to have signed as his replacement.

“Obviously, it was very natural to get George in the car, because he’s been kind of part of the team for a long time,” he said.

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“It’s a new generation, and that’s also how the sport is evolving. Mercedes, they’ve had this Young Driver Programme, and George has been in that for a long time.”

He sees the importance of the eight-time constructors’ champions exploiting the prodigious talent the 23-year-old offers.

George Russell at the 2020 Sakhir GP with Mercedes.v1

“And for them to waste that opportunity, in case he obviously still develops further and becomes more experienced, and even quicker, they didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” he explained.

“So for me, it’s all good. For me, I’m really happy.”

Russell will partner Sir Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this season, while Bottas will pair up with Chinese F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo in 2022.

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