Bot­tas never felt ‘in a panic’ about new Mercedes deal

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Valt­teri Bot­tas took his new Mercedes con­tract in his stride, even though the de­ci­sion was made late in the sea­son.

The Fin­nish driver, who joined as an emer­gency re­place­ment af­ter Nico Ros­berg re­tired just days af­ter win­ning last year’s ti­tle, was awarded a one-year ex­ten­sion this week for 2018.

De­spite the some­what late call, lead­ing ob­servers to spec­u­late whether Mercedes had been look­ing else­where, Bot­tas never felt “in a mas­sive panic” about whether he would get an ex­tra year.

“At no point dur­ing this year have I got any signs from the team that they were look­ing some­where else,” Bot­tas said at the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix. “For sure, it is a good feel­ing, and bet­ter than not know­ing and bet­ter than hav­ing no con­fir­ma­tion.”

Bot­tas has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions as Lewis Hamil­ton’s team­mate, win­ning two races and se­cur­ing seven other podium fin­ishes to emerge as an out­side con­tender for the ti­tle.

Hamil­ton leads Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel by three points, with Bot­tas a fur­ther 41 be­hind Hamil­ton in third place. Bot­tas has not writ­ten off his ti­tle hopes, but knows he has to score heav­ily in the seven re­main­ing races to have a chance, start­ing with Sin­ga­pore.

“I should start sooner than later to fin­ish ahead of them, as the sea­son end is com­ing closer,” he said. How­ever, the sinewy street cir­cuit in Sin­ga­pore re­duces speed and over­tak­ing is more suited to Fer­rari than Mercedes. At Monaco and Hun­gary — which are both no­to­ri­ously hard to over­take on — Fer­rari se­cured a 1-2 and left Mercedes lag­ging be­hind.

“This track is not one of our strong­est cir­cuits, and maybe even one of the most dif­fi­cult ones,” Bot­tas said. “It is a lot about the trust in your car.”

At times this sea­son, Mercedes has strug­gled with its set up, caus­ing prob­lems with bal­ance and rear tire is­sues.

“If we look at Bu­dapest and Monaco, for ex­am­ple, we have been strug­gling,” Bot­tas said. “It is not the eas­i­est car to set up right.”

Although Sin­ga­pore is a night race, the swel­ter­ing hu­mid­ity tests driv­ers’ en­durance more than other races as fa­tigue and de­hy­dra­tion im­pact on con­cen­tra­tion.

“To­ward the end of the race here, it is more likely that you make a mis­take,” Bot­tas said. “Phys­i­cal fit­ness does play a role.”

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