Pressure on Bottas to deliver

Valtteri Bottas' contract with Mercedes will expire at the end of this season and an extension will depend largely on his performance this campaign. There is talk of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo being a possible replacement.
Valtteri Bottas' contract with Mercedes will expire at the end of this season and an extension will depend largely on his performance this campaign. There is talk of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo being a possible replacement.PHOTO: REUTERS

Finn is sure he can win F1 title as rivals hope to take Mercedes hot seat when his deal ends

LONDON • Valtteri Bottas could be fighting for his Formula One future this season but the Finn believes he has what it takes to win his first world title.

His contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the campaign and rivals are already eyeing one of the sport's most coveted seats.

"I believe I have all the tools (to be the champion)," the 28-year-old was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

"I have had five seasons in F1, this is my second year with this team, and I won some races last year. So I know I can do it."

He joined Mercedes, who will be chasing their fifth successive constructors' and drivers' title double this year, in January last year after the sudden retirement of world champion Nico Rosberg.

That meant he had plenty to get on top of immediately, unlike team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with a new team and car after years at Williams.

Bottas, who gets on markedly better with the Briton than Rosberg did in his last few seasons, won three races last year to Hamilton's nine.

He was always strong on the smoother surfaces but had a dip in form after the August break, before coming back strongly.

But he failed to secure the runner-up position in the drivers' championship, finishing third behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

"This year I have had more time to focus on performance," Bottas said after winter testing at Barcelona. "There haven't been as many things to get used to, so it has been a smoother beginning."

He said he had analysed the problems and learnt from Hamilton, after having plenty of time to reflect over the winter on what he had done wrong and how to get it right, and felt energised. He also believes the W09 is a better machine.

"What I have felt so far, with the balance and how it behaves, I think we have made some improvements," he added ahead of the season opener in Melbourne next week.

With Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo of Australia out of contract at the year end, and making known he would relish being reigning champion Hamilton's team-mate, and Force India's 21-year-old Frenchman Esteban Ocon a Mercedes protege, Bottas has to deliver.

"For sure the team is expecting more from me. So am I," Bottas told reporters last month at the launch of the W09. "I'm aiming for a better season than last year and for sure the team is hoping to see me performing better."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2018, with the headline 'Pressure on Bottas to deliver'. Print Edition | Subscribe