Belfast Telegraph

I can stun team-mate Hamilton and take his title, says Bottas


Top man: Valtteri Bottas has set sights on world glory
Top man: Valtteri Bottas has set sights on world glory

By Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas says he is ready to defy the odds and beat the British driver to this year's Formula One world championship.

Bottas is entering his second season alongside Hamilton at Mercedes and was given his first proper taste of this year's car at the opening winter test in Barcelona yesterday.

Despite claiming three victories in his debut campaign at Mercedes, Bottas spent much of the season in Hamilton's shadow as he roared to a fourth title.

But the Finn, who finished 58 points adrift of Hamilton, insists he can get the better of his team-mate over the course of this year's 21-race campaign.

"Lewis is beatable," Bottas (28) said. "He is definitely the toughest team-mate I have ever had and he is one of the best drivers ever in Formula One. He was the best driver last season, but there is no driver who is unbeatable.

"I believe in myself and in the things I have learned in the five years I have been in the sport. I was able to show that I can do it at many races last year but I know it is there and I know it is possible, so that is my thinking."

Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg at Mercedes following the German's dramatic decision to quit the sport five days after beating Hamilton to the 2016 title.

Mercedes renewed Bottas' contract last September, but the Finn was awarded only a one-year deal, allowing the sport's all-conquering team to keep their options open for 2019.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of this year, and has openly admitted he wants to partner Hamilton during his career.

"I would like to put more pressure on Lewis on track and be battling wheel-to-wheel with him more often than last year," Bottas added. "If I perform well, then that will naturally cause some tension (between us).

"That can be a positive thing and makes both of us try even more to leave no stone unturned in terms of performance and keeps us pushing even more.

"(Mercedes executive director) Toto Wolff wants us both to be performing on a 100 per cent level, and that can provide some healthy competition."

Hamilton, who is bidding to become only one of three drivers to win the championship more than four times, will open the defence of his title on March 25 in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Hamilton's former team McLaren believe they can compete for podiums after dumping their beleaguered engine partner Honda for Renault.

"This is a big year," McLaren's American chief Zak Brown said.

"We expect to be fighting for podiums, whether that is the top step, second step of third step."

McLaren are playing catch-up after a wheel nut failure wrote off Fernando Alonso's opening morning in Barcelona.

Alonso (36) spun into the gravel when his right-rear wheel detached from his McLaren.

Alonso, who had completed six laps with the session just 37 minutes old, emerged unscathed and returned to the garage.

Although Alonso returned to the circuit later in the day to take his lap count to 51, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who set the fastest time, managed more than a century of circuits.

"It was a very, very small problem, but very graphic and very obvious because a car in the gravel is a big thing," Alonso said.

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