Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has laughed off suggestions that Sebastian Vettel will take his seat in 2021, and has claimed that he has already received assurance that he will not be replaced next year.
Bottas, like teammate Lewis Hamilton, is out of contract at the end of 2020 and currently does not have a drive secured for next season.
The sudden availability of four-time world champion Vettel, who will leave Ferrari after six years together at the end of the current campaign, has raised eyebrows over a potential move for German from Mercedes, who are yet to tie down either of their drivers as well as team boss Toto Wolff – who last week opened the door for Vettel by admitting it would be only fair to consider a driver of Vettel’s talents before adding that they are “monitoring” the situation ahead of the 2020 season.
Sharing the full story, not just the headlines
But after returning to the cockpit for the first time since pre-season testing this week, Bottas said he has been assured that his place is not under threat for now, and laughed off any other suggestions as he is growing used to the uncertainty.
“It’s the same as every year for me,” Bottas told Sky Sports. “I find it quite funny that with not even a single race done, there’s been people getting my seat. It made me laugh! So there’s no pressure from that side.
“I have my clear goal for the season in my mind and that’s it.
“Things will then sort themselves one way or another, whatever’s going to happen. I’ve no stress about that at all.”
Bottas added: “It doesn’t get to you. We’ve been very honest about what the situation is all the time about contracts, and I got a pretty straight message that no, they’re not considering Seb. So I said ‘fine, no worries then’.”
Wolff said this week that any move for Vettel would depend on the actions of Hamilton, Bottas and Mercedes’s two other drivers, George Russell and Esteban Ocon. Russell is pushing for a move to Mercedes after cutting his teeth in impressive fashion with Williams, while Ocon will return to the grid this season with Renault after sitting out 2019 due the lack of an available driver.
Bottas got behind the wheel for the first time in four months on Tuesday as he tested at Silverstone in the 2018 W09 chassis, which Hamilton then took over on Wednesday in order for the team to practice their new coronavirus social distancing protocols.
Hamilton has also used the time off from the sport during the coronavirus pandemic to voice his anger at racial injustice, having criticised both President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on social media and thrown his support behind those taking part in the Black Lives Matter protests around the world.
Hamilton’s views received the full backing of both Mercedes and chief executive Wolff, who credited the six-time F1 world champion with opening his eyes to the true extent of racial injustice that he had not previously experienced. Bottas followed suit and credited Hamilton for using his platform to speak out for the right reasons, and added that he shares the same views as the team in pledging to fight racial inequality.
“I think it’s good to speak out, it’s a very important matter,” the Finn added. “The whole team of ours, including me, we support diversity.
“I think he’s got the right mindset, because he’s obviously got lots of followers and lots of power in that sense, so it’s good that he speaks out. The full team of us is fully supporting that.”