January 6, 2023

Wolff: Bottas Hungary crash won’t influence 2022 F1 driver decision

Mercedes is currently weighing up whether to continue with Bottas as Lewis Hamilton’s teammate for next season, or promote junior driver George Russell into the senior team.

Russell has been part of Mercedes’ young driver programme since 2017, and has impressed in F1 since making his debut with Williams in 2019. He scored his first points for the team in Hungary last weekend, finishing eighth.

Russell’s best F1 result was aided by two first-corner crashes in damp conditions involving seven cars, one of which was triggered by Bottas.

The Mercedes driver misjudged his braking point and slid into the rear of Lando Norris, whose McLaren then careered into Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Bottas’s car continued into the path of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, with all drivers bar Verstappen forced to retire due to damage.

The error sparked criticism from Norris, who said he expected better from top F1 drivers. Bottas apologised and took full blame for the incident, and was hit with a five-place grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix after the summer break.

But Mercedes F1 chief Wolff made clear that Bottas’s mistake would not have an impact on the team’s driver decision for 2022.

“No, the mistake was unfortunate with big consequences,” Wolff said.

“He got sandwiched by the two cars in front, lost all downforce, and then it was already too late.

“It doesn’t influence at all the decision.”

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Mercedes is expected to make a decision between Bottas and Russell over the summer break, and will be the first major domino to fall in the driver market for next year.

Bottas felt disappointed after his third DNF of the 2021 season, having collided with Russell at Imola in the wet and lost a comfortable second-place finish at Monaco due to a wheel nut failure.

The Finn sits fourth in the drivers’ championship, 87 points behind Mercedes teammate Hamilton, and has failed to win a race this year.

Bottas acknowledged that the season so far “hasn’t gone my way”, but believed he had been making progress in recent races prior to his Hungary crash.

“At least in the last few races, it feels like it’s been slightly positive, getting some podiums and more points,” Bottas said.

“But now I have three DNFs, which is quite a lot in terms of points, so it’s not been great.

“But there’s still more than half to go in terms of number of races and we keep going.”

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