Mercedes won't rush Valtteri Bottas contract renewal for 2018
But Bottas in the driving seat for new deal at world champions
By James Galloway at the Red Bull Ring
Last Updated: 12/07/17 5:21pm
Mercedes will not rush into handing Valtteri Bottas a contract renewal for 2018, although the Finn is "favourite" to keep the drive.
Bottas arrived at Brackley in January with his seat only guaranteed for this season, with Mercedes making clear they wanted to first assess his form and also keep their longer-term options open.
Bottas has since claimed his first F1 pole position and race win, plus four other podium finishes, and is third in the Drivers' Championship, 28 points behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Toto Wolff says he has been pleased with the Finn's performance so far but nonetheless stressed that Mercedes first need to consider their longer-term driver strategy before agreeing any extension deals.
"Valtteri is doing a good job but I've been here for a while and I don't think you should be rushed into a driver decision," he said at the Austrian GP.
"The market becomes pretty interesting in 2019 and onwards and you just need to plan ahead what's happening.
"That doesn't mean that anything speaks against Valtteri because he's clearly our favourite, the one we want to stay with us for a very long time. But we just need to make up our mind."
While Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, in addition to Bottas, are currently out of contract at the end of the year, none of the grid's highest-profile drivers yet have deals in place for 2019.
Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen and Hamilton's respective deals all expire in 18 months' time. Meanwhile, Mercedes' leading junior drivers, Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein, remain options for the future too.
But, in the shorter term, the prospect of Mercedes hiring Alonso at the expense of Bottas for 2017 to partner Hamilton appears slim.
"Without any doubt he's an important personality in Formula 1, a great driver and Honda and McLaren appreciate that," said Wolff.
"But with us at the moment we're really happy with the line-up. I know it's not the answer you want to hear, but stability is an important factor. The dynamics between the drivers is an important factor and we have no reason to complain."
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