The giveaway that Bottas is resigned to Russell's arrival - MPH

Mark Hughes

Both Mercedes F1 drivers have one year to run on their contracts, and Valtteri Bottas looks like a man who knows he won't get any more chances

Valtteri Bottas, 2020 Eifel GP

Bottas looks to be on the way out of Mercedes unless he can conjure up a magic 2021 season

Grand Prix Photo

“He will definitely play a role in our future line-up. He just has to have trust and patience,” said Toto Wolff to RTL recently when asked about George Russell’s place in Mercedes’ plans. “Today we are concentrating on our two drivers, Valtteri and Lewis. This is our regular team. We will see what the future brings.”

It was a message the Mercedes boss re-emphasised at the launch of the team’s car on Tuesday. “The future is very bright for George. He doesn’t need to be concerned.”

At that same launch, Valtteri Bottas sounded like a man already coming to terms with the idea that this could be his final season in a title-contending car and that he needed to make the most of it.

“When I get to the last race in Abu Dhabi, I want to look back and say that I did 100 per cent, I did every single bit that I could to win the title; that’s the ultimate goal for this year. That is going to be the same for all the people around me, whoever I’m working with, I’ll demand as much as I feel like I need to, to get the support and get the information that I need, and maybe that way, I can be a bit more selfish. One year in a lifetime, giving everything that you have, is actually quite a short time.”

There’s none of the impervious, dismissive sheen, that Teflon front that most drivers have, about Bottas. Although his range of physical cues denoting emotional low or high is narrow, his mood is usually quite easy to read regardless. He doesn’t give false readings, he gives subtle ones. On Tuesday he seemed a curious mix of resolve and resignation. Reflective ahead of the battle and maybe knowing already what the outcome is likely to be. But ready to dig deeper than ever before regardless. As the song says, One more cup of coffee for the road. One more cup of coffee before I go. To the valley below.

Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E Performance Launch

Hamilton looked at ease with his future, perhaps outside of F1, but Bottas looked resigned to another tough year

Mercedes AMG F1

Because, with Russell in the wings driving in the final year of his Williams contract, maybe only the world title could rescue Valtteri’s Mercedes seat. And how likely is that when Lewis Hamilton is your team-mate?

He’s not even bitter about it. It’s almost as if he’s outside of the situation looking in when he says, “I get it. I kind of get it, if the team has the opportunity for the big change [of regulations] coming in 2022, to have options, to choose both of their drivers, I think it’s good for the team. But honestly, from my side, no rush really. I’m just full gas for the season and trying to get to my goals.”

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That point about a team re-set for ’22, when the drawbacks of discontinuity for a team will be minimised by the all-new regulations, was an answer to a question no-one had asked. Likely it’s been imparted to him and is on his mind.

How could long term Mercedes junior Russell not have a seat in the big team after his sensational short-notice stand-in job at Sakhir last year? Not even fitting the car, losing pole to Bottas by hundredths but then having the beating of him in the race – including a very committed overtake after his early lead had been lost to that pit stop calamity with the wrong tyres. He twice had that race in the bag, a performance which virtually demanded that he be in the car once his – and Bottas’ – current contract ends.

It is possible that even if Russell is recruited there may still be a Mercedes seat available, of course. For Hamilton said nothing on Tuesday to quell the idea that he may stop at the end of the year, regardless of whether he takes a record-breaking eighth title.

There’s a lot of reflection going on at Mercedes ahead of the ‘Big Reset’ of ’22. We’re about to see the last season of ‘Old’ F1 and in this transition time there are big decisions to be made everywhere. Bottas is caught in the vortex of some of those and all he can give is his all.