BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said it was difficult to enjoy Lewis Hamilton's Hungarian Grand Prix victory after seeing Valtteri Bottas endure such a tough race at a crucial time in his career.
At some point in the next four weeks, Wolff is expected to decide whether Bottas or highly-rated Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon will partner Hamilton at the team next year. Bottas looked to be a title contender after a strong start to the season but has faded from that battle in recent races.
After Wolff made his imminent Bottas-Ocon decision public on Saturday evening, Bottas had just beaten Hamilton to third position on the grid, but his race quickly unravelled after two lock-ups and contact with Hamilton and Charles Leclerc in the opening corners. Bottas eventually recovered to 8th, but finds himself 63 points down going into the summer break.
"That's why you don't see me jumping up and down for joy because it's so sad for him," Wolff said. "He was so pumped yesterday after his qualifying, his performance was brilliant and he was in the right space of mind before the race.
"But the unfortunate incident of flat spotting the tyre, touching with Lewis, touching with Leclerc, within a lap all the hard work is gone. And that's just awful for him. I'm sorry for him."
Wolff insisted Bottas' worst race of the season would not have a big bearing on his decision, despite being the freshest memory.
"We will not let one race result influence our decision its more about compounding all data and looking at it and making a decision. It's stability and a great personality and a great driver versus giving youth a chance in the car with all the rewards and risks it can bring.
"We will start the process tomorrow and its not going to be an easy one."
Weighing heavily on Wolff's mind over the next month will be what happens to the driver who isn't lining up alongside Hamilton in 2020. Despite impressing for Racing Point last year Ocon has spent this season without a race seat after losing out on a game of musical chairs in the driver market -- he has had to make do with a role as Mercedes' reserve driver this year.
Wolff is determined to ensure Ocon isn't left without a seat again if he retains Bottas, as the team has invested a lot of time and money into the Frenchman's career, as it has with its other youngster, Williams rookie George Russell. The reigning Formula 2 champion has been ruled out of consideration for this decision.
When asked how much his decision was influenced by his ability to find Bottas a seat elsewhere, given that he's a later stage of his career than Ocon, Wolff replied: "It absolutely plays a role because we have responsibility for our drivers -- we have responsibility for our juniors and for the ones who are in the car with us right now.
"And we're not going to do anything that's going to make it harder for them. So yes, whatever we decide we consider the option for the driver to go elsewhere, and if it's for Esteban [to] progress, to make it back one day in a Mercedes, or if it's for Valtteri, have a soft landing like you call it. Because he deserves it, he had great speed yesterday."