Valtteri Bottas securing a new contract to stay at the Mercedes Formula 1 team in 2021 was ultimately a formality. 

There was no surprise when Bottas’ renewed deal for 2021 was announced on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, following speedy and productive talks in recent weeks. 

It was always expected that Mercedes would continue with its current driver line-up for next season, and that was all but confirmed when Williams announced George Russell would see out the rest of his contract with the Grove-based outfit until the end of 2021. In reality, the highly-rated 22-year-old was never in contention for a Mercedes drive for next year.



Neither was Sebastian Vettel, with Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff informing Bottas back in June that the four-time world champion was not in the German manufacturer’s plans, despite Wolff engaging in some public flirting when he spoke highly of Vettel when questioned about such speculation.

Wolff had always made it clear that Mercedes’ intention was to stick to its current line-up. After all, why would the team want to risk bringing in an outside factor that could end up destabilising the successful foundations it has built with the Bottas-Hamilton combination? It already has all the ingredients needed for success, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 

For Mercedes, retaining Bottas makes perfect sense. He is delivering everything it currently needs, while his strong, drama-free relationship with Hamilton acts as a relief for the team which had to deal with an intense rivalry when Nico Rosberg was teammates with Hamilton. 

Over the four years he has driven alongside Lewis Hamilton, Bottas has proved himself a more than capable driver, and played a crucial role in helping the team achieve its run of world championship triumphs in that period. 

Bottas has contributed eight wins and countless podiums to Mercedes in that time, while has also demonstrated that he can play the support role to Hamilton for the overall team benefit when required.

Bottas has kicked off the delayed 2020 season in fine style, winning the opener in Austria when Hamilton was having a rare off day, before backing up his teammate’s run of victories with second and third places at the following races. 

He would have finished second in last weekend’s British Grand Prix too had he not suffered a late puncture, which is the reason he now trails Hamilton by 30 points. 

"We're seeing the strongest Valtteri we've ever seen this year - in terms of his on-track performance, but also physically and mentally,” Wolff said. “He is second in the championship, finished the last season in P2 and plays a very important part in our overall team performance.

"I'm confident that we have the strongest driver pairing in F1 today and signing Valtteri is an important first step in retaining this strength for the future.

"Valtteri is a hard-working, straightforward guy who has a good relationship with the entire team - including his team-mate, which is not a given when both drivers are fighting for the championship.

"I'm looking forward to seeing him continue to raise the bar together with us this year and in 2021."

The timing comes as a boost for Bottas too, with the Finn making it clear from the outset this year that he wanted to strike up an early deal to avoid any potential distraction from his efforts to claim a maiden F1 world title. 

While his latest contract was still announced as late in the calendar year as some of his previous deals, this occasion marked the earliest point in a season that an agreement has been penned amid the delays to the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic which means that just four races have so far been completed. 

"I'm very happy to stay with Mercedes in 2021 and build on the success we've enjoyed together already," Bottas added. 

"The past few years have been all about continuous improvement, working on every aspect of my performance. I'm confident that today I'm the strongest I've ever been, but I can always raise the bar. Mercedes embraces the same philosophy: They always want to get better and are always hungry for more.

"Ever since I fell in love with F1 as a kid it's been my dream to one day become world champion. I'm in the fight for the title this year and staying with Mercedes puts me in the best possible position to compete for it next season as well.” 

A one-year deal with the team option to extend into 2022 follows a familiar pattern we have grown accustomed to seeing with the Bottas-Mercedes dynamic, and it is one that works for both parties.

Bottas gets to drive the best car on the F1 grid and has the chance to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a world champion, while Mercedes knows that a short deal will prompt the Finn to ensure he remains on top of his game, being aware of the fact that Mercedes has the likes of Russell and Esteban Ocon waiting in the wings if he does not perform as expected. 

EXCLUSIVE: George Russell ready to prove F1 champion material 

The only piece of the Mercedes jigsaw puzzle for 2021 yet to be finalised is whether Hamilton will remain with the team for next season. 

Although Hamilton insisted at Silverstone there has been “no discussion at all” as yet regarding his future, it is widely expected that the 35-year-old will stay with Mercedes. 

If recent comments about his short-term future are anything to go by, Hamilton looks set to stay with Mercedes for a good few years to come. 

And why wouldn’t he? Hamilton is well on course to match and potentiality surpass Michael Schumacher’s records with what appears to be the most competitive machinery on the grid underneath him for the next two years. 

There is no particular rush to strike an extension, and as Wolff indicated last weekend, any delays over an announcement would be driven purely by “commercial” aspects of the deal. 

A continuation of the Hamilton-Bottas pairing into 2021 is ultimately a no-brainer for Mercedes.

 

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