Mercedes will decide over the summer break if it is to keep hold of Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate for next year, or it will take George Russell instead.
The team insists no decision has been made yet, and Bottas is fully focused on convincing his bosses to hand him a fresh contract. But if Mercedes does opt for Russell, then Bottas has been clear that he wants to remain in F1 rather than go and race in another category.
There has been speculation that he could return to the Williams team, as replacement for Russell, with the Grove-based outfit enjoying a lift in performance under new owners Dorilton Capital. However, high level sources have revealed that he is a key target of the Alfa Romeo team, which is looking increasingly unlikely to retain Kimi Raikkonen beyond the end of this season.
Bottas would bring the team speed and experience, plus a decent profile as a multiple grand prix winner. While it is understood that talks regarding a possible deal have not begun, it is believed there has been brief contact regarding Bottas’ potential availability for 2022.
Sources suggest that the door is not closed on a tie-up for next year, but nothing will move forward until Mercedes has decided what it wants to do.
Alfa Romeo owner Finn Rausing and team principal Fred Vasseur are understood to be in no rush to sort out drivers for next year and have been open that they will wait until Mercedes and Red Bull have settled their lineups before making a call.
Speaking at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, Vasseur said: “We will see how the market is evolving. I think that as usual the system will fulfil the places at the top.
“It means that Mercedes has to take a decision and then Red Bull has to take a decision. Then, like a domino, at one stage, we will have some opportunities on the table and we’ll take a decision at this stage.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Bottas continues to deliver for his team, having played a role in helping Hamilton at last weekend’s British Grand Prix.
“Valtteri has speed, Valtteri has character and Valtteri is a team player, which is very important in the dynamics of a team,” Wolff told Motorsport.com. “I feel that for the last few races he is very much positive in his approach and you can see that on track.
“He could have been on pole [at Silverstone], if he would have had the slipstream. And he finished the race a few seconds behind the leaders, so he’s right up there and I’m happy to see that.”
Asked if the Hungarian GP was Bottas’ last chance to prove a point, Wolff said: “It is not about proving a point, it is about us sticking our heads together here, and with Mercedes, to draw out the future of our driver lineup.
“We will take a decision over the summer and then we will decide when to communicate it.”