Thu | Apr 2, 2020

Pressure on Bottas to impress Mercedes

Published:Friday | August 2, 2019 | 12:33 AM
In this file photo dated Saturday, July 27, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the qualifying Formula One session at the Hockenheimring racetrack in Hockenheim, Germany.
In this file photo dated Saturday, July 27, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland steers his car during the qualifying Formula One session at the Hockenheimring racetrack in Hockenheim, Germany.

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP):

Mercedes has a point to prove at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, especially Valtteri Bottas.

His future at Mercedes will be settled during Formula One’s summer break, which follows Sunday’s race. Last weekend’s crash at the German GP has only increased the spotlight on the Finnish driver heading into the race.

“For sure, it was not ideal,” Bottas said yesterday, reflecting on his Hockenheim crash. “Every race is important, but when you know the team is making decision for the future ... it can be very important.”

Bottas has been on one-year rolling contracts since joining Mercedes in 2017 as a sudden replacement for retired world champion Nico Rosberg. Last year, he got the nod for 2019 only in July. This time the decision is being made even later, amid speculation he could be replaced by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

BUSINESS AS USUAL

While he is mindful of the situation, he said the uncertainty will not affect his driving at the Hungaroring. “It’s not the first time ... so it’s business as usual,” Bottas said. “I feel I deserve to be here. I still have lots to give, lots to get. I still haven’t achieved my goals.”

His stated goal at the start of this season was to challenge – and topple – reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes teammate.

Bottas backed that up by winning two of the first four races and even leading the F1 championship ahead of Hamilton. But he has not won any of the past seven, while Hamilton has won five.

It was a golden chance missed for Bottas last weekend, given that Hamilton collected only two points after finishing ninth.

At the time of his crash, which came two laps after Hamilton had spun his car in the same place, Bottas was pushing for a podium finish, which would have at least dented Hamilton’s championship lead. Instead, Bottas sits 41 points behind the five-time F1 champion.

“I still believe in myself as hard as I did. I know I’m still in the championship fight. Maybe some people don’t,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I can’t say that anything has changed in my driving. I am driving as well as I can. The first few races I had the wind on my side, then Lewis got it.”