Bottas: Audi made “sudden” change without consulting me

Valtteri Bottas explains that Audi made a surprise change without his approval.

To start the 2024 season, Valtteri Bottas is deeply embroiled in F1’s driver market speculation. Sauber, who is under Audi’s ownership, is making changes and stamping their authority. The first big change was revealed last week with Hulkenberg’s multi-year agreement. Understandably, this F1 news is prompting questions about who Audi will put alongside the 36-year-old next year.

Drivers across the paddock linked to Audi

Several names, including their existing drivers (Bottas, Zhou) and other free agents (Sainz, Ocon), are in contention to join the Hinwil-based squad. In this context, Bottas is diligently working behind the scenes to advance contract negotiations. According to the Finn, some of these talks are making strong progress.

Unfortunately for the former Mercedes driver, he cannot rely on Audi to extend his contract. Even before last week’s announcement, there have been numerous reports hinting at an all-new driver partnership at Hinwil. This is understandable, given that CEO Andreas Seidl did not select, but rather inherited his current duo.

A recent example of the changes at the Swiss team, in addition to the diminishing influence of Valtteri Bottas, has recently emerged.

The 10-time race winner has a new race engineer this weekend. This abrupt change to his first point of contact with the team was made abruptly and – crucially – without his consultation.

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Audi make key changes without consulting Bottas

Bottas explained the situation in Thursday’s press conference:

“I think that’s more a question for the team. Yeah, it was quite a sudden change.

“Obviously, it’s a Sprint weekend, so working with a fresh guy will be not easy, but obviously trying to make the most out of it.

“But yeah, he’s getting a lot of support. But yeah, it’s quite a sudden change.

“I think it’s part of the kind of reconstruction for the team.

“There’s some people leaving, some people joining. And obviously, yeah, many of those decisions, they are not in my hands. And yeah, so I don’t do those decisions.”

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In his typical diplomatic fashion, Bottas gave very professional answers in a very awkward situation. He admitted that Sauber’s acquisition of Nico Hulkenberg was announced sooner than expected.

Although writing him off for an Audi deal may be premature, it seems clear that the dialogue between the two parties is limited. This does not bode well for his chances of staying at the team that – under Fred Vasseur – signed him in the summer of 2021.

Considering the Miami GP is a Sprint weekend, Bottas has little time to adjust to a new race engineer. As he struggles to score points in a hyper-competitive midfield, the 34-year-old must overcome another obstacle.

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