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Toto Wolff makes Valtteri Bottas declaration as Lewis Hamilton title fight to rumble on | F1 | Sport

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has defended his outgoing driver Valtteri Bottas after the Finn struggled to make up many places during the United States Grand Prix. With the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships still up for grabs, every point is vital for Mercedes, with just 12 points separating Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings.

Already relegated five places back from his qualifying spot of fourth, Bottas could only recover to sixth at the Circuit of the Americas, whilst both Red Bull drivers picked up important points, sandwiching his team-mate Hamilton in second.

Mercedes have a hold in the team standings as they have a 23 point cushion over Red Bull, and Wolff dismissed any suggestion that Bottas’ dropped points could cost them the championship.

“Valtteri didn’t drop any points,” Wolff said.

“It was always very clear that it would be difficult from where he started because of the engine penalty to make it back to the sharp end. He’s performed brilliantly in the last race and I think he’s done very well here [Austin].

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“So we just need to keep it up as a team, both drivers need to score and I have no doubt that Valtteri will be a strong contributor not only to a constructors’ championship but also the drivers’ championship.”

Bottas was left frustrated after the race, after initially being held up by Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

But after being hit with another engine penalty ahead of the race, Bottas always knew he was in for a tough day at the office.

“It was difficult, like I expected,” Bottas explained. “What made it more tricky in the first stint was being behind the AlphaTauris, as I couldn’t get by.

“Obviously that lost me quite a bit of time, and, unfortunately, there was no help with Safety Cars or something. So I made some progress but quite slowly.”

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Hamilton, meanwhile, added that Mercedes had one of their toughest races during the United States Grand Prix as the seven-time world champion had to settle for a second-place finish in Austin.

After the race, Hamilton said: “It was such a, such a tough race, got a good start, gave it absolutely everything but at the end of the day they just had the upper hand this weekend, and we couldn’t really ask for more, but a big, big thank you to my team for great pitstops great hard work throughout the weekend.

“And what an amazing crowd, to perform in front of you guys, it’s such an honour.”

Fans poured into the circuit in Texas after a gap in the calendar last season due to Covid restrictions, but Hamilton acknowledged what an atmosphere they had in front of them.

“I think this is definitely our acceptance into the US,” continued Hamilton.

“It’s an honor to be out here and I hope we can get more races here and that the sport continues to grow.”

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