[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] VALTTERI BOTTAS: NEXT CONTRACT

Valtteri Bottas heads to Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps with a big question mark over his future at Mercedes.

Despite starting the year in a very strong fashion, with two wins from the first four races, the Finn now sits second in the standings, 62 points behind his teammate, five-time F1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton.

...and only seven points ahead of Red Bull Racing’s, Max Vertappen after the young gun stood atop the podium in Austria and Germany. In comparison, Bottas scored a third place finish in Austria, did not finish in Germany after a crash in the wet conditions, and ended the first half of the season with an eighth in Hungary...

...compared to the Dutchman’s second place. These results, combined with the team’s reserve driver, Esteban Ocon, waiting in the wings for a chance to come back to Formula 1, there is no doubt the pressure has continued to increase, on and off the track.

Before the season started, the 29 year old spoke of his ramped up training regime, a process he undertook to give himself the best chance of success in the new season.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS 
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“I started the training as well around Christmas, New Year time. Then training camps and its been pretty full on since mid-January. I feel mentally in a pretty good place for the new season. Very keen to start again, start from zero and I think for all of us I think it's going to be an interesting year.”

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the training regime after a challenging year, like the one Bottas experienced in 2018, is increasing your mental strength, something he spoke of in the lead up to the first race in Australia.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS 
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“In this Formula 1 world, there can be a lot of pressure. And a lot of situations that you could potentially be affected by the pressure. So it’s really important to keep your inner cool in those situations, you know. There’s many things that you can either lose or win the race. Every pit stop, race start, every lap, every corner, every overtake, every defending moment. You need to keep your inner cool.”

By the end of Saturday in Melbourne, ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, there was no doubt in the paddock and beyond the team was back, and still in charge, after Lewis Hamilton took pole, ahead of Bottas in second.

Race day saw the Finn turn his performance up another notch, and take his first win of the year, along with the first fastest lap point of the season.

This was a huge improvement on his performance in Australia the previous year, where he finished in 8th place. Mirroring his results in Bahrain and China for 2018, Bottas continued his charge in Azerbaijan, where he took his third pole of the year, and then second win of 2019, a reward for the heart breaking puncture he suffered while leading in Baku last season that left him 14th.

Since then, however, the Finn hasn’t beaten his teammate to the chequered flag, with his best results being a podium in Spain, Monaco, France, Austria and Great Britain.

There is no doubt Bottas remains strong on a Saturday, out qualifying Hamilton five times, to seven, but the race results have turned in favour of the Brit, who led the team home nine times.

Does this mean the team will replace the five-time grand prix winner with Ocon, or can he hold on for another year?