Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is expecting Valtteri Bottas to be a strong competitor in 2019 after his "mental setback" this season. The Finn has slipped into a support role for Lewis Hamilton and is aiding his teammate's push for a fifth world title.
Bottas is yet to win a race this season but came close recently in Russia, where he was leading the race ahead of Hamilton. However, Mercedes intervened with team orders and instructed Bottas to let Hamilton by for the good of the championship.
Wolff says that the situation is very tough for Bottas, but is expecting the former Williams driver to come back even stronger in 2019: “I think we have to remind ourselves that for a race driver who is channelling all his efforts into winning races and the championship, if you take that ability away from him, it would automatically cause a little bit of a mental setback.
"He [Bottas] says he hasn’t got that, but I believe that will play a little part of it," Wolff continued. “He is a tremendous team player, and I really cannot emphasise that enough. To give you an example, after Sochi in the evening we had a discussion.
“He said, ‘I completely understand why you did it and where the team’s coming from. If I were in your shoes, I would do exactly the same. I need to outperform Lewis at the beginning of the season and score more victories and put myself in a position to fight for the championship, so don’t worry about me’.
“I think Valtteri will get many more victories in his life and will go into his third season with Mercedes next year and will make another step. He will have learnt and improved and exceed himself as a strong challenger for the championship. That’s exactly what we want. That will come.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing