Toto Wolff says any future deliberation about contracts needs to be handled better, particularly after the uncertainty surrounding Valtteri Bottas in 2019 and whether or not the Finn would be retained for 2020.
Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Bottas was confirmed to race for the Mercedes AMG Motorsport team in 2020, and since then, he has outscored team-mate Lewis Hamilton by five points, although he has seen his team-mate clinch the World Drivers’ Championship in the recent United States Grand Prix.
2019 is by far Bottas’ strongest season at Mercedes since he was brought in to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg, but Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, admits the uncertainty over whether to retain the Finn or promote reserve driver Esteban Ocon for next season had an effect on his driver’s performance ahead of his confirmation.
“With Valtteri there is a better way to deal with that,” Wolff is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com. “Now, in retrospect, you can say it probably had an effect.
“And I will try to consider that, and make a better job in that respect.”
Bottas, who has four wins to his name in 2019 and has secured second place in the Drivers’ Championship with two rounds to spare, admits that the uncertainty surrounding his future was not ideal, and he is expecting something similar to happen again next year.
“There was definitely uncertainty for 2020 at some point,” said Bottas. “Lots of rumours. I had no idea what was going to happen. I just had to wait. As an athlete, as a driver, it’s not an ideal situation.
“You can’t be completely with peace of mind and focus on the job and feel mentally free and in the right place. It’s tricky. When that continues, year after year, every single year of your career, at some point it’s getting a pain in the ass.
“It’s definitely nice to get the contract signed. But, it’s going to be the same story next year. I’m not too worried at this point because the pace is good, I enjoy the driving, I enjoy working with the team and hope they appreciate that as well.”
Wolff sees the contractual situation ahead of the 2021 season as ‘super exciting’, with none of the leading drivers, Hamilton and Bottas included, under contract for then. He is expecting the first signings for that season to be confirmed ‘pretty soon’ but for now, everything is up in the air.
“I think 2021 the door is wide open, no drivers are contracted to any team, that’s super exciting, and I guess that the driver carousel is going to start pretty soon,” said Wolff.