Bottas cannot afford 'amateur' mistakes during Mercedes probation

Valtteri Bottas is effectively on probation at Mercedes, and every mistake will count against him when a decision is made over his future.

Bottas cannot afford 'amateur' mistakes during Mercedes probation

Valtteri Bottas is effectively on probation at Mercedes, and every mistake will count against him when a decision is made over his future.

Neither Toto Wolff nor Valtteri Bottas were in the mood to gloss over the costly error that ruined the Finn's Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Mercedes boss Wolff said his new driver "threw it away" with his spin behind the safety car, while Bottas admitted to feeling "pretty s***" after making what he described over team radio as an "amateur mistake".

Bottas, who started third, had dropped to fifth after Mercedes stacked him and Lewis Hamilton for a switch to dry tyres, with the safety car having been deployed following Antonio Giovinazzi's second collision with a wall in as many days.

But the pivotal moment in Bottas' race came when, weaving across the track in a bid to get some heat into his fresh set of tyres, he lost control of the back end of the car and ended up on the grass.

The incident saw Bottas drop to 12th and his best efforts at a recovery could only earn him a sixth-place finish, behind both Ferraris, the two Red Bulls and racewinner and team-mate Hamilton.

For any driver just finding his feet at a new team, the manner of Bottas' slip-up would have been a somewhat humiliating knock to the confidence.

However, set against the peerless performance of Hamilton, who racked up his third career grand slam of pole position, fastest lap and top step on the podium, the former Williams man's error was magnified.

"I apologised to everyone. It was a silly mistake," said Bottas, who was accidentally referred to as 'Nico' over team radio during the race. "I guess these things happen but it feels pretty s*** when it happens to you.

"The main thing is not to do it again and I'm glad Bahrain is already in one week. The worst thing to do now would be to not stop thinking about that mistake.

"I need to understand how I can improve in the future and need to move on."

Almost emphasising his own culpability for the disappointing result, Bottas acknowledged Mercedes had better pace in Shanghai than at the season-opening race in Australia, where he finished third behind Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

"I know the pace is there, I can do very good things with the car and as a team we did a stronger job, in terms of car pace, than what we had done on Sunday in Melbourne," he added. "I just need to keep going and the results will come."

While Wolff was uncompromising in his initial assessment of the incident and how much it had cost Bottas and Mercedes, the Austrian was keen to draw a line under it.

"It's happened to the best [in the past]," he told Sky Sports F1. "It was very slippery out there and he lost it and this is where the race was gone.

"He just needs to recover from that now. It's just the second race in the season, he has 18 more left. Analyse it and forget it."

Bottas is thought to be on an initial one-year deal at Mercedes, with Wolff commenting at the time of his recruitment that the team were keen to keep their "options open" as junior drivers Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein gain experience elsewhere - Ocon with Force India and Wehrlein at Sauber.

So Bottas is effectively on probation as he looks to land a more permanent deal with the Silver Arrows and every "amateur mistake" will count against him when decision time comes.

There is no questioning Bottas' talents, or that he faces a monumental challenge in replacing a world champion in Nico Rosberg and going up against a team-mate like Hamilton, but you get the feeling he can ill-afford too many more mishaps like Sunday's if he is to make the seat his own for the long term.

As Wolff himself said in January: "He needs to just perform and be quick and then the future can be his."

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