Valtteri Bottas expects tensions to rise with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this season as he dares to do the unthinkable and beat the British driver to the Formula 1 world championship.
The new season gets under way in Melbourne on Sunday, and 28-year-old Bottas could prove to be defending champion Hamilton’s fiercest title challenger if, as expected, Mercedes begin the year with the best package on the grid.
Bottas won three times last season, but was left in Hamilton’s shadow and finished 58 points adrift of his team-mate in the standings. The cordial relations between the two Mercedes drivers however, is far removed from the toxicity that existed between Hamilton and his long-term rival Nico Rosberg within the sport’s dominant team.
Rosberg, who has been announced as a pundit for Sky Sports’ coverage this season, is only the second team-mate – the other being Jenson Button – to have beaten Hamilton over the course of one campaign in 2016, the year he won the title.
And Bottas envisages upping the ante in his quest to be the driver who stops Hamilton from claiming a fifth world crown.
“If Lewis and I are able to battle harder on track and go wheel-to-wheel then for sure there will be friction,” said Bottas. “If it comes to winning a race or defending a certain position then you go for it.
“We have spoken with the team about Nico’s season; what kind of things he did, how much he worked with the team, the things he focused on, and beating Lewis. But I don’t see the need to speak to Nico. By working in my own way, and my direction with the team there is no reason why we cannot fight for the title.”