Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said that he believes Valtteri Bottas has what it takes to succeed in Formula 1 with the German team, but he will have to show that he deserves his seat at Mercedes next season.
Bottas became the first Mercedes driver since 2011 to not win a race during a season after failing to stand on the top step of the podium in 2018. In contrast however, his teammate Lewis Hamilton scored eleven wins during the course of the year, and won his fifth world championship.
There will be added pressure on the Finn next season because the highly-rated Frenchman Esteban Ocon has recently been given the job of reserve driver for the Silver Arrows, after he was forced out of the Racing Point team in favour of Lance Stroll.
“Every racing driver in a Formula One car has to look over his shoulder. It is a very brutal sport where only the best ones survive and they are very well aware,” Wolff told Reuters.
“They have made the selection of the top 20 racing drivers in the world and every single year they have to justify that they deserve the place. It is not only valid for Valtteri but all the others as well.
“Valtteri is a fierce warrior and he wouldn’t be where he is today if he was not an outstanding racing driver. I think he absolutely embraces the challenge of being teammate and competitor to Lewis Hamilton,” said the Austrian.
“I think where things have gone wrong with Valtteri in 2018 was that he was very unlucky. He could have, should have — but that doesn’t count — won three races.”
“I think within any racing driver there’s a certain mental setback that happens. And it happened to Valtteri and he will work on it over the winter and will start the season fresh. All points go back to zero and he has the same opportunity like he has in the last year to win the driver’s title. He certainly has the talent and the intelligence.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing