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Mercedes must take the blame for Bottas slump - Lauda

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Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda says that the team must shoulder the responsibility for Valtteri Bottas' struggles in the latter half of the 2017 season.

The Finn started the year well despite his short-notice signing after Nico Rosberg's retirement at the end of last year. He picked up two pole positions and won two Grand Prix races before the summer break.

But Bottas has been frustrated in the last few races. He has been unable to find the sort of form that has propelled team mate Lewis Hamilton to the top of the world championship standings.

However Lauda insists that it's the car that is to blame, not Bottas.

"There is something wrong aerodynamically or mechanically," he told Kronen Zeitung newspaper. "The car is not stable.

"When you are over one second behind, you don't even need to think about the tyre window," he added. "The alarm bells are ringing loudly."

Both Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff said in Malaysia that the W08 had "gremlins" and "fundamental" problems. Worryingly, the team still doesn't seem to know how to address the situation moving forward.

"We still have no solution," said Lauda. "But we will surely have a different setup in Suzuka. And we hope that we return to our old form.

Lauda added that Hamilton was just as affected by the car's issues as Bottas had been.

"This is easily explained," he explained. "Lewis said in Malaysia that it was exhausting for him to keep the beast on the road. He succeeds with this because of his talent.

"Bottas on the other hand needs a stable car," Lauda added. "We could not give him that. This is our fault."

Bottas was initially signed up on a one-year contract at Mercedes, but recently extended that for a second season. That means both he and Hamilton will remain at Brackley until at least the end of 2018.

Hamilton has spoken of his desire to stay at the team beyond that. However, Lauda said it wasn't time to open contract negotiations with the driver,

"He still has a contract for 2018, so we will talk about it after Abu Dhabi," he stated.

However, Lauda was happy to dismiss paddock rumours that Mercedes had a 'pre-agreement' with current Red Bull driver Max Verstappen for 2019.

"There's nothing in it. Zero. Honestly, nothing at all."

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