[F1 2019 VIDEO FEATURE] VALTTERI BOTTAS: TITLE CONTENDER

Valtteri Bottas’s Baku victory has elevated him to title contender, with the Mercedes driver 1 point ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton, ensuring he’s right where he needs to be to keep his drive for 2020…

…as part of four-straight one-two finishes to start a season, a feat never before achieved in Formula 1 history.

…and one that continued the pair’s race finishing streak to 16, the longest run of anyone on the F1 grid dating back to Mercedes’ double retirement in Austria last year.

Incredibly, given the Silver Arrows’ control of the sport’s turbo-hybrid era since 2014, it’s the squad’s best-ever season start.

A shot at a record-equalling sixth-straight constructors’ title by no means assured pre-season, with Ferrari then looking strong.

SOUNDBITE (English) TOTO WOLFF
HEAD OF MOTORSPORT, MERCEDES:
“I think that you can't say that we are aiming for a sixth title [double], because that would be ignoring the fact that there's a massive [aero] change of regulation, the points go back to zero and the five doubles that we have scored make us tremendously proud, but  give us no guarantee or no sense of entitlement for this sixth potential title, insofar I think that we just need to push flat-out, as if it would be any other season and then see whether it's good enough.”

And should Bottas continue delivering as a top-level team player: bringing home the points either behind teammate Hamilton, or ahead, as he has been this year in Azerbaijan and Australia…

… there’s every chance his option for 2020 will be taken up.

… leaving reserve driver Esteban Ocon again on the sidelines.

It’s quite a conundrum for Mercedes management given Bottas’ influence, bringing soothing calm to the top squad, in the aftermath of Nico Rosberg’s shock end-of-2016 retirement…

… which has no doubt assisted Hamilton in reaching new heights, as he did last year with a new confidence, linking his peaks together.

Bottas has also upped his game, focusing on what’s important right from the outset, in preparing for the new season.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“Obviously started training as well around Christmas, New Year time. Then training camps and its been pretty full on since mid-January. So, I feel mentally in a 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 a really interesting year.”

It’s also going to be a decisive one, in terms of his career.

Across F1’s hybrid era, former Mercedes driver Rosberg reduced the gap to Hamilton from 67 points to lifting the crown by five in 2016. Bottas now needs to deliver after a 161-point difference last year.

And he knows every last detail will count in winning that fight.

SOUNDBITE (English) VALTTERI BOTTAS
F1 DRIVER, MERCEDES:
“There’s many things that you can either lose or win [you] the race. Every pit stop, race start, every lap, every corner, every overtake, every defending moment. You need to keep your inner cool.”

And there’s no shortage of drivers looking to replace him with immediate threats from Ocon and further down the line George Russell, who is doing well relatively speaking at Williams.

The Finn is going to have stay in the zone, and challenge Hamilton from Spain to the Abu Dhabi finale.

Bottas’ chance at a world title depends on it.