Bottas rubbishes new Mercedes exit reports as decision could wait until early 2022

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Valtteri Bottas has rubbished the latest claims that he will be leaving Mercedes after 2021.

This week, both German and Italian media reported that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has already decided on and informed those close to George Russell of his promotion for next season.

However, ahead of the French Grand Prix, Bottas defiantly hit back.

“I can’t confirm that. At least no one has told me that so that is not true,” he said.

“That is speculation and I am sure people are trying to make up stories just for the clicks. That is how it goes.

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“We haven’t really yet discussed anything about [a] contract with Mercedes and that will come eventually.

“Now the focus is for this triple-header and we will see then maybe after at some point, but not much more to say at this point.”

If Mercedes do go with Russell, Bottas' options in F1 are limited for 2022, with most open seats coming at teams lower down the grid.

But the 31-year-old did make it clear he would like to continue if possible.

“I haven’t really thought about it yet that deeply, honestly,” he said of a 'Plan-B'

"I'm quite open-minded, like in life in general. You need to always take opportunities and you just never know what's around the corner.

"Having clear goals, what you're pushing for, it has taken me this far, and yes [I] always want to follow my heart and follow my passion.

"I am still enjoying Formula 1, of course, very much and racing at the front, and I really love it and I still enjoy it as much as I did, for example, in my first year with Mercedes, no doubt.

"If I look at the big picture, for sure I still have a good few years in me. I feel like year on year I keep improving on certain areas and keep getting better," he added.

"I'm quite far from the oldest drivers on the grid so, in theory, I still have time, but you just don't know what the future holds. I take it weekend by weekend and see what comes."

One wish Bottas and Russell have stated is that a final decision is made by August's summer break, but now Toto Wolff is laying out a whole new timetable.

“Somewhere in the winter, I think. But I don't know if it's December, January or February," he told reporters on when a decision would be made on Friday.

That sudden shift comes after previously wanting to avoid a repeat of the last off-season, when talks with Lewis Hamilton stretched into early February.

But the Austrian says waiting that long would be the right thing to do.

“It is highly possible because we have always been committed and loyal to the drivers, and this is what we're doing,” he continued.

As for what will be decisive in his final call, Wolff was asked if Mercedes was ready for a fresh face to liven things up.

“That [a fresh impetus] is one of the things that need to be considered? Absolutely. But it's not the main driver,” he said.

“The main driver is consistent performance. Especially in this difficult year, we need two drivers that are racing right there.

“If one is having an off weekend or DNFs, you need the other one to bring it home. And that's why it's always important that both are just on the max of their ability.”