• An FIA accredited F1 journalist since 2011
HELSINKI, Finland -- After spending one season as teammate to Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes last year, Valtteri Bottas is convinced he's ready to beat the four-time champion to the title this year.
The Finn was drafted into Mercedes' driver line-up a year ago after Nico Rosberg announced his shock decision to retire and not defend his title crown. Bottas was thrown in at the deep-end but had a solid first season, securing his first pole position in just his third race and taking three victories over the rest of the year.
A slump in form following the mid-season break saw him drop out of title contention, and in the business-end of the year he was forced to adopt a supporting role for Hamilton's championship charge. He finished 2017 in third place in the drivers' championship, 58 points adrift of his teammate.
However, one major bonus was the ability to compare his data directly with Hamilton's, and while he discovered that he needed to adapt his driving style to the traits of Mercedes' car, he also saw positives in the races where he had the edge.
Asked by ESPN if there was anything in that data that gave him reason to believe he would not be able to beat Hamilton over the course of this year, Bottas' response was clear: "No.
"For sure he is one of the best drivers ever in Formula One, a four-time world champion who's always on it, but I proved to myself a few times last year that I can do it and I can beat him.
"It's up to me to be performing well consistently all through the year, not having those kinds of race weekends when I'm a couple of tenths off or something. I need to be in all conditions -- no matter what track, which temperature and which tarmac -- I need to be there."
Finding that extra consistency is likely to be easier now Bottas is in his second year with Mercedes. Not only does he have a better understanding of what is required of him, but the design of the car is also likely to be tailored more to his liking after a winter working closely with the team.
Ice Racers challenge with Valtteri Bottas
ESPN's Laurence Edmondson goes head-to-head against Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas on a snowy race track in Finland.
"I think all the development we have done with the team over the winter with the new car, everything looks in the right direction in terms of what's good for my driving style. That's how I see it now in theory, but of course we need to find out. I need to adapt, but I think I'm so much more of a complete driver starting this year than starting one year ago."
And Bottas does not think it is too ambitious to target the championship in his second year at Mercedes.
"I think everyone knows [my target]. For sure every driver wants to be world champion, but I am so hungry for it. I'm ready to do anything it takes."
Rosberg, Bottas' predecessor, was comfortable with the "anything it takes" approach to racing. He and Hamilton regularly engaged in psychological battles off the track as well as wheel-to-wheel racing on it, and in 2016 he became the first of Hamilton's teammates to beat him to a title. But Bottas insists that's not his style.
The Finn's arrival at Mercedes heralded a new era of team harmony last year and he sees no reason to change that to try to gain a competitive advantage over Hamilton.
"Even though the harmony is there, I don't see that it is making Lewis a better driver. I think he's always on it and I just tend not to deal with that stuff. I just want to focus on my performance and that will hopefully get me further."
Source : http://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/22467219/why-valtteri-bottas-convinced-beat-lewis-hamilton-2018