Nate Saunders, F1 Associate Editor 350d

Toto Wolff: Nobody in Mercedes is doubting Valtteri Bottas despite dip in form

Formula 1

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has backed Valtteri Bottas to recover from the dip in form he has experienced since the summer break, something the Finn himself admits has left him feeling stressed.  

Bottas has been uncomfortable in Mercedes' erratic W08 in recent races, with his struggles at the Malaysian Grand Prix prompting him to label the current situation the most difficult of his Formula One career so far. Despite podiums at Monza and Singapore the Finn has struggled to match the pace of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who has claimed three wins and three pole positions in the four races since racing resumed at Spa-Francorchamps.

Wolff believes this spell will make Bottas, who was handed a one-year contract extension in August, a better driver when he finally gets back on form.

"I think he will overcome this tough period," Wolff said. "Somebody clever said 'Smooth seas don't make tough sailors', and if he can dig himself out of the current underperformance he is going to come out much stronger. We have seen very good performances from him this year and he had a dip in form in the last races but nobody is doubting Valtteri."

Bottas struggled on Mercedes' upgraded package in Malaysia, one Hamilton opted to remove after Friday practice -- a decision which helped him claim pole the following day. The issue was compounded by the fact Bottas' driving style tends to demand more of the tyres than Hamilton's, something Wolff says is impossible to rectify overnight.

"We have a capricious car. It has a very narrow operating window with the tyres, where the tyres generate optimum grip. And dipping in and out of the window is the fundamental story of 2017 for us.

"Driving style plays a role. Lewis was able to better adapt to the problem than Valtteri. But changing driving style is not something that comes easy to anybody."

Bottas is hoping to find immediate answers to the problems, especially with the short turnaround between Malaysia and this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

When asked if he found the situation stressful, Bottas told reporters: "Yes, of course, driving one second off the pace, feeling that I want to fight for the race wins, if you're one second off the pace it's definitely stressful. I want to turn around, hopefully quickly."

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