Toto Wolff has described the driver market as a “puzzle” with the Mercedes boss yet to decide whether Valtteri Bottas will be retained for 2018.
Bottas, who signed a single-year deal in January when he joined the Silver Arrows, has been a revelation since his move from Williams to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg.
A week after claiming his second win of the season in Austria, Bottas finished second behind Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s British GP despite starting from ninth after a grid demotion.
At the halfway point of the season, the Finn is just 23 points behind title leader Sebastian Vettel and 24 shy of Hamilton in the standings – with both less than a race victory ahead of the on-form Bottas.
But a new contract for 2018 is still far from a formality.
“It is almost a no-brainer,” Wolff said. “I would just like to put the puzzle together, it is not only about 2018. It is about looking forward in 2019 and 2020.
“There are some opportunities and after Budapest, l will contemplate what is right and wrong for the team.”
The hold-up is almost certainly linked to Vettel as the four-time world champion is still yet to renew with Ferrari for next season.
“Sebastian probably holds the key to the driver market for the moment,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
The mistake, however, would be to think Bottas might be fazed by the delay.
“The August break is coming soon and normally that’s when discussions start,” he said, “so you are not going to hear anything for a few weeks.”
But the 27-year-old confirmed: “The target is to have a long relationship with the team.”
Hamilton too, after spending four years in what turned into a fractious partnership with Rosberg, is keen for the current Mercedes dynamic to be maintained.
“Having Valtteri on board has brought a lot of positivity to the team and dispelled a lot of negativity we had before,” he said. “We are a winning team and we can’t change any components of it.
Bottas’ more immediate target remains winning the world championship in his first year at Mercedes. He has and was further encouraged by Mercedes’ pace relative to Ferrari at Silverstone where the world champions appear to gain a critical advantage over their rivals.
“At the beginning of the year Ferrari had a big upper hand on Sundays, they were really quick,” he said. “But in Austria, we were very quick in the race and here again we were quicker than Ferrari so we have definitely made progress.”
2017 Drivers’ World Championship latest standings
|Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||117|