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Toto Wolff says Mercedes will make a decision on Valtteri Bottas’ future over the summer once he has had a chance to analyse Mercedes’ long-term options.
Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg at Mercedes over the winter after the reigning world champion announced his shock retirement at the end of 2016. Wolff had to prise Bottas out of a Williams contract, but only opted to sign him on a one year deal in order to keep his options open ahead of 2018.
Since joining Mercedes, Bottas has scored two race victories and is currently 22 points behind teammate Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ standings. Hamilton has often talked about the positive energy Bottas has brought to the team this year, but Wolff wants to put all the pieces of the driver market puzzle together before committing to a new contract.
“He’s almost a no brainer [for 2018],” Wolff said of Bottas. “But I just like to accept the puzzle together, and it’s not only about 2018. I think it’s about moving forward, about what happens in ’19 and ’20, the risk and opportunities.
“That’s why after Budapest, hopefully a good race again and we’re going to contemplate on a beach on what’s about right and wrong for the team.”
One option rumoured this week is Mercedes signing a long-term deal with Sebastian Vettel when his Ferrari contract runs out at the end of this year. That would ensure Mercedes keeps a multiple world champion on its books until the end of 2020 (when its own contract with F1 expires) and would safeguard the team’s driver lineup against Hamilton leaving at the end of his current contract in 2018.
But while Wolff appears intent on exploring all options, Bottas is not unduly worried about his future and is willing to wait for a decision.
“First we need to really speak about it before doing any announcement or make contracts,” he said. “We are coming to the point where we are getting to the middle of the season and the August break will be here soon and normally discussions will start then.
“You are not going to hear anything for the next few weeks for sure, like I said before the main target is for me to have a long relationship with the team — that is what I want. We will still have to wait a few more weeks and see how things go but that is my target.”