Valtteri Bottas: Mercedes chief Toto Wolff strongly defends star amid George Russell calls

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Valtteri Bottas has been backed by Mercedes chief Toto Wolff after being dominated by Lewis Hamilton in 2020. It has led to calls for George Russell to replace the Finn after he impressed when standing in for Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Bottas was outshone by Russell who looked like he would win the race but for a Mercedes pit stop mistake costing him certain victory.

Wolff thinks Hamilton’s team-mate had no luck in the 2020 F1 season though and is fully behind him for the new season.

Mercedes will then have a decision to make for 2022 between Bottas and Russell if Hamilton stays in the sport as expected.

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“This season, Valtteri has had insane bad luck, ” Wolff said

“Several punctures that shouldn’t have happened, red flags as he led easily [at Mugello]. If I didn’t know he has an absolutely solid mind… A driver might start to wonder why this happens to him. But not Valtteri.

“He’s so solid, so tough and tenacious; that’s only going to make him stronger. I’m sorry for him, that he had all these problems in one season when he could have won three, four or five races and be second with a good lead.

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“I think he’s got the right frame of mind. He had a couple of very, very tough weekends and got over it. He had a really good race [in Abu Dhabi]. I think he maybe released some potential.

“Even at the end of the season when the championships were decided, he bounced back. I think that’s the mentality of a fighter.”

Bottas believes he was close to Hamilton on race days despite the results which looked like the F1 world champion dominated him.

“It was extremely close many, many times this year and even in top three as well. We had good qualifying battles with Lewis,” he explained.

“Obviously in the races more often, as the points show, he got the upper hand. But I can’t really say that qualifying was the biggest thing that I improved.

“I would say actually the race pace overall this year was a little bit better. But obviously, there’s always more work to do.

“Of course I didn’t meet my targets for the year in terms of results… but still now looking at the big picture, there’s so many positive things and so many more lessons learnt about driving and about myself and everything that I can again carry into next year and really turn that into a strength and try again.”

F1 returns with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, March 21.

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