Wolff opposed to scrapping Friday practices

While Toto Wolff is opening to reducing the length of Friday practices, the Mercedes motorsport boss has urged F1 not to drop it completely.

F1’s powers-that-be are currently looking at ways to spice of up grand prix weekends with changes set to come into effect in 2021.

One of the proposals on the table is doing away with Friday practices.

While some drivers such as Daniil Kvyat, and even team bosses like Christian Horner, believe F1 should scrap Friday’s running and only have a Saturday practice, Wolff feels this would be a wrong move for F1.

He told RaceFans.net: “We did that in the DTM many years ago and it felt like the weekend was not spectacular and special anymore.

“If it’s cut short in two days it takes some value out of a race weekend.

“Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor racing and it’s the World Championship among engineers, drivers and the best teams and therefore that is a thing I wouldn’t change.

“I would leave it on Friday.

“What we can think about is cutting a session short on Friday or reducing the running time to 60-and-60 minutes rather than 90 minutes.

“These are things that are worth considering but I wouldn’t go for a radical cancellation of the Friday.”

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Mercedes consult Hamilton on Bottas-Ocon decision

Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team have consulted Lewis Hamilton on who he thinks his next Mercedes team-mate should be.

It is widely believed that the German team are currently deciding whether Valtteri Bottas or Esteban Ocon should partner the Brit next year.

While Bottas has enjoyed his best season at the team, Wolff has repeatedly stated his desire for Ocon to be back on the grid next season.

The decision is expected to be made within a few weeks, and the Mercedes team principal revealed to Gazzetta dello Sport that he’s asked the opinion of Hamilton.

“I state that we make this type of choice solely on the basis of the interest of the team but Lewis has been with us for a long time, so, yes, I submitted our narrow list to him, asking for his opinion”, Wolff said.

“Well, he thinks exactly like us, both of them deserve to be his teammate for him”.

While Ferrari and Red Bull both have young drivers in their ranks in the forms of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, Mercedes have never employed a driver younger than 25 since their return to the sport in 2010, but Wolff claims he’s not afraid of doing so.

“There is the great theme of giving a young person a chance”, Wolff added.

“In the recent history of F1, only two riders immediately shone with a top team: Lewis Hamilton with McLaren (making his debut in the 2007 World Championship) and Max Verstappen with Red Bull.

“The latter was very good at giving the Dutchman the necessary time to grow, first in Toro Rosso and then for two years at Red Bull.

“At Ferrari or Mercedes, there is a very high pressure … Having said that, they both deserve the place.”

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JV: Keep Bottas, Ocon is too big of a risk

Two years ago Jacques Villeneuve was not a fan of Valtteri Bottas, calling him an embarrassment; now he feels the Finn is Mercedes’ best option for 2020.

Back at the 2017 Brazilian GP, Villeneuve labelled Bottas’ performance “embarrassing” and said it was at the level of a “number two” driver after the Mercedes driver fell from pole to second while his team-mate Lewis Hamilton raced from the pitlane to P4.

A year later, with Mercedes having re-signed Bottas for 2019, the former World Champion proclaimed that Bottas would not see out the 2019 season with Mercedes, saying they will instead bring in Esteban Ocon.

Now, though, after two wins and a handful of runner-up results, Villeneuve is questioning why Mercedes would even consider dropping Bottas and putting Ocon in the car as Hamilton’s 2020 team-mate.

“Why would you do that?” the Canadian pondered to Dutch publication Formule 1.

“Of course Mercedes must continue with Bottas.

“How many times have they achieved P1 and P2 this season?

“If he were to be half a second slower every round than Lewis, like last year: OK, you can replace him.

“But that is not the case.”

The 48-year-old feels putting Ocon in the car after only two seasons with Racing Point, formerly known as Force India, would be a massive risk for Mercedes as they bid for what could be a seventh championship double.

“Why would you take Ocon?” JV added. “He has not yet proven himself.

“I don’t know exactly how good he is and would never take that risk.”

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Wolff sings the praises of ‘better Lewis’

Joining Mercedes in 2013, Toto Wolff believes Lewis Hamilton’s “spectacularly” personal growth away from the track has aided him as a driver.

This season Hamilton is on course for his sixth World title, which would be his fifth with Mercedes and his third in a row.

It has been an impressive career for the 34-year-old, who, with 81 wins on the board, is predicted to beat Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 and perhaps even match, or better, his seven World titles.

Wolff reckons Hamilton has benefitted on the track from his personal growth.

“He’s an integral part of the team and has developed as a racing driver, but even more spectacularly as a human being,” Wolff said in an interview with the official F1 website.

“When he joined from McLaren, it was for me like a raw diamond in a sense. You could see complications in his life and maybe a lack of stability in understanding what was needed.

“All that disappeared through the Mercedes years. And every year he became a better Lewis and – knock on wood – in the last two, three years we’ve barely seen any mistakes.

“And if they happen, he’s the first one to admit them and that has contributed to our culture of being brutally honest with each other.”

Wolff has insisted from the very start of Hamilton’s Mercedes career that the Brit be allowed to be his own man.

Whether that is delving in to the music world or fashion or jet-setting around the globe in the build-up to a grand prix, there is no doubting that it works for Hamilton.

And that means it works for Mercedes.

Wolff added: “I believe that Lewis’ various other interests – music or fashion – take his mind off between the races.

“Having a good time is something I think is very positive and very important for his performance on the racing track.

“We are very open with each other with what we do. We ‘Facetime’, we send videos and I feel in a very good place with him.”

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Bottas takes part in ‘secret’ rally test

Valtteri Bottas recently swapped his W10 for a Ford Fiesta, taking part in a rally test amidst rumours that he could be out of F1 come the end of this season.

With Bottas once again failing to match team-mate Lewis Hamilton out on track, trailing the Brit by 62 points in the standings, Bottas’ place at Mercedes is on the line.

The team did not take up their option on him for 2020 by the July deadline with Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff throwing fuel on the fire when he spoke of ensuring Bottas has a “soft landing” should the team decide not to keep him.

Soft landings, though, may not be what the Finn wants.

Earlier this week he took part in a “secret” – according to local newspapers – test in an unbranded M-Sport World Rally Championship-spec Ford Fiesta in Germany.

It, however, wasn’t that secret.

This isn’t the first time that Bottas has ventured into rallying with the Finn competing in the Arctic Lapland Rally, where he finished P5.

Speaking to F1.com about the event, he said: “It was the plan, to do something completely different and for fun.

“It was my first ever rally and I only had two test days before it, so for that it was really good and I really enjoyed it. I found the love for driving again.

“So, actually I still do some test days every now and then with the rally car and I’m planning also to do more in the future.

“For me, it’s just purely fun and truly enjoyable.

“With these small events and test days, there’s no politics or anything, it’s just purely driving, enjoying it, discovering how to be quicker and so on.”

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