Bottas has very much impressed many with his performance this season, starting his account with a win in Australia and then a pair of second places at Bahrain and China.
Two seasons ago in 2017, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff waited until September before giving the green light to extend the Finnish drivers single-season contract for the 2018, but then enjoyed an early decision for the 2019 season with an announcement in July the previous year but they’ve always only been single season contracts, something the higher paid, and usually, world championship winning teammates don’t have to worry about.
It appears that Bottas is keen to push Wolff into making another earlier decision on his contract after such a decent beginning to his season, or that’s what Motorsport.com are claiming anyway.
It must be said that the winless 2018 season won’t have helped his cause initially, but it’s seemed to have put a rocket up his arse and the Finnish driver has come out all guns blazing for 2019, hats off Bottas. The other obvious motivating factor is a certain Frenchman in Esteban Ocon waiting in the back of the Mercedes garage.
At the end of last season, the Frenchman and Mercedes junior driver was ousted from Force India, now called Racing Point, following the financial takeover by Lawrence Stroll, father to F1 driver Lance Stroll. Lance slotted into Ocon’s seat, forcing Mercedes boss and driver manager for Ocon, Toto Wolff, to keep his young protege close but not in a race-seat.
The irony of Wolff actually being an intrinsic part of the downfall of Force India’s previous owner Vijay Mallia hasn’t been lost on this Judge. Representing Mercedes engine supply, Wolff was stood alongside Sergio Perez as a leading figure, calling for Force India to put into administration midseason.
Ocon now drives as a development driver and reserve driver for Mercedes having either personally been assured of good chances to race again by Wolff, or been advised not to drive for the only seat left available at the time, Williams (or both).
Last year, Kubica’s seat at Williams wasn’t cast iron for the Polish driver, and Williams initially offered it to Ocon. Wolff was heard by the press as saying that “It was felt it would be a backward step in his career trajectory.”
Bitter pills for Williams fans when a driver willfully sits out a season of F1 than drive for historically one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.
As it stands for this season, we have a Ferrari team appearing lost at sea and Red Bull Honda too slow to challenge, so the picture that’ll take shape could be very similar to 2016 with a title fight between just two Mercedes drivers.
It’ll be interesting just how ‘compliant’ a competitive Bottas would be should he still not have a decent renewal deal ahead of him. After all, this isn’t the old ‘wingman’ anymore. We have the new edgy Bottas now remember.