Just as Valtteri Bottas was preparing to do his final qualifying lap, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff came on to team radio, telling the Finn to give it “all you have”.
Coming from the Wolff, the message could be seen as encouragement, as the men played it off as, or a pointed message to the under fire Finn.
Bottas has been heavily criticised, particularly after a bad showing at the Sakhir Grand Prix, where he only just out qualified George Russell in his first race in the main Mercedes, ultimately finishing eighth.
Speculation has been rife this week that Bottas will lose his spot to Russell as soon as next year with Wolff even pouring cold water on the situation.
Wolff and Bottas played the message off as words of encouragement.
“You know, it’s always tricky when you talk to the driver before qualifying and the race but it’s something we discussed and he said a little feedback from you is always good,” Wolff said.
“It’s difficult because I’ve never talked to the drivers because I felt from my experience it’s a bit distracting, and everybody’s different.
“With him, we had a good talk, and obviously when the championship was lost it’s always difficult to cope with that and that’s why he said let’s talk a little bit more.”
But former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher said the confident performance of Russell, whose race was ruined by a pit disaster and a puncture, made him believe the season-ending race was make or break for Bottas.
“Maybe it will depend on the last race,” Motorsport-total.com quoted the German as having said.
“But if he has another race weekend like last, the risk is too great.
“His performance in the last races was really bad.
“You can’t go into the next year with a driver like that and expect to collect points to win the Constructors’ Championship.”
“I think he’s broken and I believe that after the weekend that George Russell showed, no one at Mercedes will want to take the risk again.
“I think the pendulum has already swung in one direction.
“I would almost be surprised if he could rehabilitate himself this weekend.”
Schumacher also said a swap might not be on the cards either.
“The question is does Williams want this Valtteri Bottas or not?,” he said. “I suspect it will mean the end of his career.
“I don’t think anyone is saying ‘yeah!’ at the moment. If Mercedes does replace him now, they have good reason to do so.”