According to Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff, the way Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have worked together was never expected. The previous season saw an intense relationship between the teammates, which had Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton then.
The intra-team tensions subsided since Rosberg’s retirement and the arrival of Bottas from Williams. Also, a reason for the same could be the rise of Ferrari which gave Mercedes an external rival to fight against. Wolff has praised Bottas for giving a close fight to Hamilton in 2017, calling the Finn’s qualifying results a “pretty strong record against the fastest man on the grid”, but said the surprise element was the team harmony.
“Valtteri for me is performing up to our expectations. When we decided to take him we knew about his qualities,” said Wolff. “So on track he has met our expectations and it’s getting better every race, and he progresses every race, which is very nice to see. But where he has exceeded our expectations, and both of them have actually, is how they work together. They get on with each other, and respect each other, on track and even more off track. It’s very straightforward.”
“It came to a point in Silverstone when Lewis said: ‘I’m going to pull him along with me.’ It’s just an underlying respect for the other individual and the other race driver. Have you seen that in the past in a team, where the two guys got on like this? The personal relationship between Valtteri and Lewis is totally different than what it was between Nico and Lewis. The working relationship is just in a totally different league, which carries over into the dynamics within the team, because everybody is affected in a positive or negative way”, added Wolff.
While Mercedes has been unable to perform like its previous years, Wolff feels the team has coped well with the challenges of the year so far.
“A certain factor of disruption is not negative,” Wolff said. “I would say I’m happy with our performance. Because if you would have said to me in the winter that we would win six races and have eight pole positions [before the break], I would have taken it.”
“But then it was more difficult than the results look like, because we had some pretty close racing with Ferrari – Barcelona with Sebastian [Vettel] being really close behind Lewis, and then Sochi and Spielberg, being really close behind Valtteri. All in all, I would say we have done OK, considering there were so many changes. We knew how difficult it would be to stay competitive through such a major regulatory change, because it hasn’t been done before”, said Wolff.