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Formula 1

Audi 'reconstruction' has left Bottas annoyed by his own team

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Valtteri Bottas cut an unusually annoyed figure at the start of Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix weekend, with his own team the source of his ire.

The typically laid-back Bottas was about as visibly frustrated as is possible for him to be on the opening day in Miami on Thursday. His primary irritation was the unwelcome surprise of discovering before this weekend that his race engineer at Sauber, Alex Chan, had been replaced.

“That's more a question for the team,” he said when asked for the reason why this had happened in the FIA press conference.

“Yeah, it was quite a sudden change. Obviously, it's a sprint weekend, so working with a fresh guy will be not easy, but trying to make the most out of it.

“He's getting a lot of support. But yeah, it's quite a sudden change.”

Bottas’s pauses, his body language, his tone and his choice of words made it clear that this was not something that he had endorsed, or even been aware was coming.

The ex-Mercedes driver has been a consistent performer at Sauber since his move in 2022 but the team has gradually declined since then and it is in desperate need of improvement before its transformation into Audi’s works team in 2026.

Bottas hinted that this may have played a part in a decision being taken without his input.

“I think it's part of the kind of reconstruction for the team,” he said.

“There's some people leaving, some people joining. And obviously, many of those decisions, they are not in my hands.

“I don't do those decisions.”

It is an unusual point of conflict, and the fact Bottas wore it so plainly on Thursday indicates it was a genuine source of tension. He also made no attempt to hide his dissatisfaction with the timing of Sauber/Audi’s recent 2025 driver announcement.

Bottas and his current team-mate Zhou Guanyu already had a fairly good idea they were not top of Audi’s list to be retained beyond 2024.

But now they know they are competing for one seat, following the news last week that Nico Hulkenberg is Audi’s first driver signing and will join in 2025 as the manufacturer takes full ownership of Sauber ahead of the 2026 rebrand.

It is claimed in the paddock that Bottas only found out about this at short notice before it was official, which may explain the lukewarm response when asked for his reaction to the Hulkenberg news.

“Of course, the timing is quite early and a little bit surprising,” he said.

“But the driver market is starting to move, and it also kind of makes sense.

“He's German, and Audi has made it pretty clear that they want a German driver, so it's all good.

“Let's see what happens next.”

Audi and Sauber are known to be courting outgoing Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz. This leaves Bottas clearly in need of a serious Plan B to stay on the grid, two weeks after team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi said it was not the time to decide on future drivers given Sauber needed to provide a better car and better team performance for its current pairing.

The situation, plus the unknown race engineer change, seems to have left Bottas rather unimpressed. He has given the impression of a driver who does not feel particularly wanted by Audi or part of the “reconstruction” it has started, and even started to sound like he might not even want to stay anymore anyway.

It is likely that Bottas would still be interested in a new deal if he could secure a long-term contract into its Audi future. But if that is not on the cards, he could be better off trying to find a deal elsewhere that takes him into the new rules era beginning in 2026.

Bottas says he is “speaking to multiple teams, some talks have advanced more than the others”. His options, though, seem limited: maybe Williams represents his best alternative.

If recent events have dampened his prospects (or enthusiasm) for a Sauber extension, those other conversations will determine where Bottas’s F1 career goes next.

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