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Wolff: dynamic between Hamilton and Bottas 'completely different'

Mercedes, Toto Wolff
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has described the dynamics between his two drivers this year as "completely different".

Wolff had his hands full last year when the clash between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg came close to erupting to a very public all-out war. Rosberg's departure at the end of 2016 put an end to the mounting hostilities. Hamilton immediately appeared much more at ease with Rosberg's replacement, Valtteri Bottas.

But now Bottas has himself emerged as a genuine title contender in 2017. He won his second Grand Prix last weekend in Austria from pole position. Hamilton meanwhile struggled to fourth place after being handicapped by a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

That revives the headache facing Wolff over how to keep his two drivers in hand, without their personal ambitions destabilising the team.

Asked how he would approach this, Wolff said: "Like we have handled it in the past. With the difference that dynamics between the drivers are completely different."

Wolff insisted that Bottas' victory at the Red Bull Ring had actually been good news for Hamilton. It deprived Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel of even more championship points, and keeps the gap to Hamilton to just 20 points. While still a lot, it could have been much worse if Vettel had won at the weekend.

"For Lewis it was actually the best outcome [in Austria] that Valtteri wins the race rather than Sebastian," said Wolff.

Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda was - as usual - somewhat sharper with his remarks.

"I will now be consulting with Toto because something must happen. 20 points is a lot," the three-time former world champion told Germany's RTL television after Austria.

The gearbox issue coming hot on the heels of a bizarre headrest malfunction in Baku that cost him a likely win. Wolff admitted that the team needed to do better for their star driver.

The British Grand Prix marks the midway point of the 2017 championship. And Wolff insisted that this meant there was still plenty of time for the title battle to swing back in their favour.

"We are not even half time and we start counting points," he said.

Hamilton agreed, saying he was looking forward to his home race at the weekend. "I hope we can use that as a springboard and get some better results from then on," he said.

"I don't have a crystal ball but with 20 points behind it doesn't look great," he admitted. "Within one race it could switch, but the bigger the gap gets, the more the pressure builds.

"Lots of pressure going into [Silverstone]," he acknowledged. "[Austria] has been a difficult weekend so we will try to get past this in the next couple of days and move forward."

Despite Bottas' success, the team has still not made it clear whether the Finn's one-year contract will be renewed. However, a comment from Wolff in Austria has led many to believe that Bottas will stay for at least one more season.

"The market will be quite interesting in 2019 so you have to plan ahead," boss Wolff told Bild newspaper.

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