Wolff backs Bottas as Mercedes seeks to 'prove itself' in 2019


Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has shot down suggestions that Valtteri Bottas will be demoted to support driver status again in 2019.

“Valtteri knows he has the full backing of the team to succeed," Wolff insisted at this week's launch of the team's new car.

"He's excited to get back in the car and show his critics what he can do,” he added.

Bottas had a difficult second season at Brackley in 2018 and failed to win a single race, despite having picked up three victories the year before. By comparison, his team mate Lewis Hamilton clinched the chequered flag on 11 occasions.

Mid-way through the campaign Bottas was forced to acknowledge that his role had become one of supporting Hamilton's bid for a fifth world title.

But with that uncomfortable experience behind him, Wolff said that he expected the Finn to be back to his best for the start of the forthcoming new season.

“We had a good chat after the break," said Wolff. "He was in a good place and has been able to fully reset after a season that was not always easy for him.

“He was refreshed, he's extremely hungry, and he wants to start racing again."

Wolff indicated that as in previous years, his two drivers would start on an equal footing with no team orders in place - at least, not until one or other has a clear upper hand in the championship.

"I'm really looking forward to a strong competition between the two of them," he said. "Racing each other hard and fighting hard against our rivals."

Having won the last five constructors championships over rivals Ferrari and Red Bull, Mercedes is the odds-on favourite to retain their crown in 2019. But Wolff is taking nothing for granted, especially not with changes to aero regulations coming in over the off-season.

"The regulations have changed quite substantially," he explained. "We have to start from scratch.

"We need to prove ourselves again, against our own expectations and against our competitors," he added. “We start the season with zero points, so we're taking nothing for granted.

"There's absolutely no feeling of entitlement to be at the front," he insisted. "With the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title.

"We're seeing all of them as a potential threat," he added.

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