Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas’ performance in the Australian reminded him of the young driver that dominated in junior categories a decade ago.

Bottas failed to win a race in 2018, struggling in the second half of the season when Mercedes put its weight behind Lewis Hamilton’s ultimately successful title challenge against Sebastian Vettel. Despite Hamilton taking pole position in Melbourne, Bottas claimed the lead at the start and dominated the race, putting in a drive that Wolff described as reminiscent of some of his form as a junior driver.

“In 2008, I got a call from a young boy who asked for a meeting,” Wolff said. “It was a snowy day in Vienna, and this young Finnish boy came in with a pullover, no jacket, and asked for advice. He went on to dominate the Formula Renault Eurocup, in a strong year with (Jean-Eric) Vergne, (Daniel) Ricciardo, (Roberto) Merhi, he almost lapped the whole field. This is the Valtteri Bottas that I have seen (in Australia).

“It was in him. I think that maybe these years at Williams, and then the shock draft into Mercedes, was something that he needed to digest. He went off tired at the end of the season, and came back, and the 2008 young man came back. I’m very happy and he deserves it.”

Bottas was a force in junior formulae, including Formula Renault NEC in 2008. Image by Gibson/LAT

Bottas delivered the message “To whom it may concern: F**k you” over team radio at the end of the race in Australia, and Wolff admits he was impressed with the mental strength of the Finn in bouncing back so strongly from last year’s disappointment.

“Since I started to work with drivers 15 years ago, I try to comprehend what is going on in their brains, and I don’t,” he admitted. “How he recovered from being written off, not up for the job in the second half of the season last year, to scoring one of the most dominant victories that we’ve seen in recent times shows us that human potential, how much it is a mind game.

“For me, it’s a bit of a fairytale – don’t let others break you, believe in yourself, and he has showed that the whole weekend. There wasn’t one single session that he wasn’t good enough.”