Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff believes the recent emergence of team orders at the German team may have mentally impacted Valtteri Bottas.
The Finn, who has yet to win a race this season, has been reduced to the role of clear number 2 driver at Mercedes following Lewis Hamilton consecutive string of wins.
While Bottas has publicly accepted his status, Wolff isn't sure it hasn't taken its toll on his driver's psych.
"We have to remind ourselves that for a race driver who is channeling all his efforts into winning races and the championship - if you take that ability away from him, it will automatically cause a little bit of a mental setback," Wolff told Autosport.
"He says he hasn't got that, but I believe that will play a little part of it."
Earlier this year, after the Hungarian Grand Prix, Wolff had clumsily qualified Bottas as "a sensational wingman". The Austrian later clarified the reference, but since then, by his own admittance, the Finn is now indeed at Hamilton's service. Wolff however sees this as part of Bottas' integrity.
"He's a tremendous team player and we cannot re-emphasise that enough.
"To give you an example, after Sochi in the evening we had a discussion, he said: 'I completely understand why you did it and where the team's coming from. If I were in your shoes, I would do exactly the same. I need to outperform Lewis in the beginning of the season, and score more victories, and put myself in a position to fight for the championship. So, don't worry about me.'"
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