Toto Wolff reiterated his praise of Valtteri Bottas’ character after his selfless move to allow Lewis Hamilton through to win last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix and admitted the Finn would be prepared to do it again this season if it was to help Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport claim both titles in 2018.
Bottas is still without a win in 2018 but has seven podium finishes, six of which have been second places, but the performance at the Sochi Autodrom proved to everyone, including his Mercedes boss Wolff, that he is a race-winning driver.
“The true strength of a team reveals itself in what individuals are prepared to sacrifice for the group. Valtteri was willing to sacrifice his win in Sochi to help protect our 1-2 and extend our lead in both championships – and he said he’d be prepared to do the same again tomorrow,” said Wolff.
“That tells you everything you need to know about the quality and integrity of his character. Valtteri proved in Sochi that he is a race-winning Grand Prix driver: he put it on pole, controlled the race and had the pace to win. And he also showed that he is a great team player when we need him to be in the final stages of the season.”
Wolff remains adamant that it was the right call to allow Hamilton to win but it was with a heavy heart that it was at the expense of Bottas but securing both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship’s is priority for Mercedes, especially with the close attention of Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari.
“It wasn’t an easy call to make even though it was the right one for the points situation,” he added. “I think every one of us was facing this struggle between our head and our heart on Sunday, but there is no hard-and-fast rule or matrix you can apply.
“Whatever scenarios you think through, the old military saying is that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, and we saw that again in Russia with how the race unfolded. Each call has its own context and we may face more tough moments before the year is over. But we will handle each one on its merits and face them together, as a strong team.
“In the end we left Sochi with a bigger lead in both championships. But we know that doesn’t mean anything because our fight with Ferrari is far from being over. We can take nothing for granted and we will stay at maximum attack on every front in the next races.
“The battle with Ferrari remains extremely close, as was underlined by Sebastian’s pace on Sunday and the pressure he put us under. Lewis was in Brackley this week and is hungry, focussed and completely determined to succeed: it has been great to see the power he has brought to this championship, and how he has taken it to the next level since the summer break.”
Wolff says this weekend’s race at the Suzuka International Racing Course will be another challenging one for Mercedes, and he knows they will need to be at their very best if they are to claim the victory.
“Suzuka will be another challenging weekend for us – we will need the very best from our team, our car and our drivers to come out on top,” said Wolff. “It’s a track that shows some similarities to Silverstone, where we didn’t perform as strongly this year as we had done in previous seasons.
“So we’re going to Japan knowing that we all have to be at our very best if we want to claim the win.”