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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff responds to speculation about Valterri Bottas’ future

Mercedes could have some big decisions to make towards the end of the Formula One season considering the rumours that have been circulating of late.

The German constructor is locked in an intriguing battle with Ferrari in what will almost surely remain a two-team race for the 2017 championship.

After producing a one-two finish in Canada two weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have secured the first and second positions on the starting grid for the Azerbaijan event in Baku on Sunday.
 
The Mercedes pair is in a strong position to extend their eight-point lead over Ferrari in what has so far been the closest contest in years.

Other issues beyond the track are not as clear-cut, though.

Much has been made over whether Bottas – who joined Mercedes from Williams on a one-year deal when Nico Rosberg retired last year – will be entrusted with driving duties in 2018.

The Finn performed more than well enough to warrant being offered a long-term contract while the constructor remains coy about his future.

"I think we just want to give ourselves time to see how the season pans out," Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said, as per Auto Racing.

"Probably it's about getting more and more confidence. No reason why not to continue with Valtteri.”

Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix

Asked what Bottas must do to ensure he stays on, Wolff replied: "Just to continue what he does now.

Clearly reluctant to tie his hands over such an important decision, he added: "I wouldn't want to attach it on a specific race result. Every day he's with us it becomes more clear. It's just that, I've been in this sport now for seven or eight years.

"Sometimes taking your time is not always a comfortable situation for the driver, but it's important to understand what's happening. This is why we won't be rushing into any decision.”

NEW DRIVER

Even if Bottas doesn't receive a new deal, Mercedes could have a free seat at the end of the season if Lewis Hamilton opts to retire or push for a move to Ferrari.

That potential scenario has prompted speculation over whether a dinner between Wolff, Niki Lauda and Fernando Alonso’s agent Flavio Briatore involved talks over a move for the McLaren driver.

However, Wolff dismissed the notion it was a primary topic of discussion.

"Well, you have dinner with Flavio it's clear that you talk about Alonso," he said.

"But we are very happy with our current driver lineup, there's no reason to question that, so there wasn't any talk about Fernando joining the team.”

Only time will tell whether his stance will change as the season pans out.


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