Mercedes have opened initial contract talks with Valtteri Bottas about an extension for 2018 and hope to have his future resolved by the Singapore GP, team boss Toto Wolff has said.
Bottas joined the Silver Arrows from Williams in January on a one-year deal as a last-minute replacement for Nico Rosberg, who had retired five days after winning the 2016 Drivers’ Championship.
The Finn has been a revelation in his debut campaign with the team, claiming two race wins and he sits third in the championship standings after 11 races, 33 points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.
Wolff had previously been non-committal on whether Bottas would be retained as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate in 2018 but he admitted at the Hungarian GP that he hoped for progress over the summer break.
“It’s a good time to talk and to think things through,” Wolff said.
“We had some good discussions with Valtteri before Hungary and I’d certainly like to dash over to Asia for the final races with a decision.”
Bottas claimed his first F1 victory at April’s Russian GP, two weeks after breaking his pole duck in Bahrain, and was also victorious at last month’s Austrian GP.
For his part, the 27-year-old has insisted there is no rush to get an extension signed.
“There could be some progress to be made on that during the break because obviously the last month has been pretty hectic,” Bottas said.
“It’s been difficult to have proper meetings and discussions with so many races. For sure there is some time but there is no rush, we don’t need to get anything done before Spa.”
A decision on Bottas’ future has been complicated by the uncertainty of the driver market in 2019, with Wolff conceding last month that Mercedes had to take into account their longer-term driver strategy before a final decision was made on the length of any extension.
As things stand, none of the grid’s leading drivers are committed to seats for the 2019 season. Hamilton’s deal with Mercedes runs until the end of next season while the contracts of Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen also expire in 18 months’ time.
Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and championship leader Vettel meanwhile are out of contract at the end of this year, although Sky F1 understands Ferrari will confirm Vettel and Raikkonen as their drivers for 2018 at next month’s Italian GP.
“The market becomes pretty interesting in 2019 and onwards and you just need to plan ahead what’s happening,” Wolff said last month.
“I would just like to put the puzzle together, it is not only about 2018. It is about looking forward in 2019 and 2020.”
‘Interesting things ahead for Wehrlein’
Wolff also revealed in Hungary that Pascal Wehrlein’s future could be resolved in the coming weeks.
The Mercedes junior is currently driving for back-markers Sauber and has scored all five of the team’s points this season.
But his position has come under scrutiny following the extension of Sauber’s power deal with Ferrari, with the Italians expected to bring through their own junior drivers with the Swiss team in 2018.
Wehrlein has previously admitted that his options for next season are “completely open” and Wolff believes some “interesting things” lie ahead for the German.
“There are lots of movements on the chess board at the moment,” Wolff said.
“I guess in the next two weeks there could be some interesting things happening.”