Bottas slams 'BS' early Mercedes exit claim, Hamilton defends 'amazing teammate'

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Valtteri Bottas has slammed a report by the Daily Mail claiming he could be replaced mid-season at Mercedes.

According to the British newspaper, citing an "insider", the Brackley-based team is "losing faith" in the Finn and is considering calling up George Russell early from Williams.

Naturally, given it's the Daily Mail, many were sceptical of the report, and Bottas wasted little time in dismissing it, even throwing shade at Red Bull in the process.

“I know that I’m not going to be replaced in the middle of the season,” he categorically stated in Barcelona on Thursday. “As a team, we don’t do that.

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“I have a contract for this year and I believe there’s only one team that does that kind of thing in F1 and we’re not that.

“So [there’s] no pressure from my side. I know how things are and there’s always bulls**t around. That’s part of the sport.”

Before heading to Spain, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was also quick to deny any legitimacy to the suggestion Bottas would be shown the door.

"Nonsense. Valtteri is really good, he can take on anyone in the field," the Austrian told Osterriech.

"Again and again he is able to drive faster than Lewis, like last time in Portimao qualifying but Lewis deserves to be world champion because of his consistency.

"We are pushing hard and continue to support him, and next time we'll see what he's capable of doing in Barcelona."

Given the perception of Bottas as Lewis Hamilton's 'wingman', some believe it's unlikely the seven-time Grand Prix winner will be dropped before the Briton himself departs.

And Hamilton also wasted little time in demanding more respect for his teammate.

“To be really honest I've not given it a lot of thought, but from what I've experienced with the relationship with Valtteri, he's been an amazing teammate as I've always said," he said on who should be his partner in 2022.

“If I'm really honest I think we have the best line up currently in terms of deliverables, in terms of the equilibrium we have within our team, and the general knowledge in terms of moving our car forward.

“At some stage, it's going to shift, it's going to change, I'm not going to be here forever, Valtteri won't be here forever but I think we've delivered time and time again over the years and we continue to.

“Valtteri just got pole the last race, it's only the fourth race, I think people need to give him a break and let him focus on doing what he's doing.”

Beyond this year, however, Bottas admits the situation is uncertain.

"I don’t know it at this point, it’s early days – I haven’t thought about next year, really," he explained.

"As I said earlier, my full focus is on this year and now, because that’s all that matters and normally that will bring a good future.

"I’ve no idea and at the moment I don’t care I just want to focus on this year and putting every single thought and every bit of energy I have into that."