Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Boss Toto Wolff has admitted he is surprised that driver’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have worked so well together since becoming team-mates at the start of the season..
Their friendly rivalry and mutual respect for each other on and off track, is in stark contrast to the tumultuous and rocky relationship the German team had to deal with last season, when Nico Rosberg was part of the line-up.
That hostile dynamic was brought to an end however when the German shockingly announced his retirement from the sport just days after taking the 2016 title, which allowed Mercedes to bring in a cool, calm replacement in the form of Bottas.
Wolff has been pleasantly surprised by how closely the Finn has pushed Hamilton already this season, in particular during qualifying; an area the Brit is well renowned for being a master. Bottas has also scored the most points of any driver in the last six races, proving his pedigree as a consistent talent, and that Mercedes made the right call in bringing him on-board.
However, it is the way Bottas and Hamilton have worked together on and off track that has been a real plus point for the Austrian, as he explained to Autosport.com recently.
“Valtteri for me is performing up to our expectations. When we decided to take him, we knew about his qualities. So on track he has met our expectations and it’s getting better every race, and he progresses every race, which is very nice to see.
“But where he has exceeded our expectations, and both of them have actually, is how they work together. They get on with each other, and respect each other, on track and even more off track. It’s very straightforward.
“It came to a point in Silverstone when Lewis said: ‘I’m going to pull him along with me.’ It’s just an underlying respect for the other individual and the other race driver.
“Have you seen that in the past in a team, where the two guys got on like this? The personal relationship between Valtteri and Lewis is totally different than what it was between Nico and Lewis.
“The working relationship is just in a totally different league, which carries over into the dynamics within the team, because everybody is affected in a positive or negative way.”
Having dominated the previous three seasons and had most things their own way, it has been a difficult transition for the Silver Arrows squad, who now have fierce competition in the form of Scuderia Ferrari since the new regulations were brought in for 2017, to contend with.
Despite the major technical overhaul however, unlike former title holders who have fallen by the wayside the following year, Mercedes have as yet not dropped the ball, and have taken the changes very much in their stride, which means retaining the title still remains a definite possibility.
On top of that, the German squad also lost highly acclaimed Technical Director Paddy Lowe, as well as a championship-winning driver, and Wolff feels they have handled that disruption extremely well as a team, which is what has allowed them to keep on track and in the hunt for silverware once again.
“A certain factor of disruption is not negative.
“I would say I’m happy with our performance. Because if you would have said to me in the winter that we would win six races and have eight pole positions [before the break], I would have taken it.
“But then it was more difficult than the results look like, because we had some pretty close racing with Ferrari – Barcelona with Sebastian [Vettel] being really close behind Lewis, and then Sochi and Spielberg, being really close behind Valtteri.
“All in all, I would say we have done OK, considering there were so many changes.
“We knew how difficult it would be to stay competitive through such a major regulatory change, because it hasn’t been done before.”