Valtteri Bottas intends to take the battle to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 2018

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Valtteri Bottas doesn't want to consider himself as the No.2 driver at Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas intends to take the initiative in his intra-team battle with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton next year and prove he deserves to be treated as an equal.

The Finn, who joined the team as an emergency replacement for 2016 world champion German Nico Rosberg in January this year, has committed to Mercedes for another year.

But he told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix that he has no intention of being seen as a number two driver to Hamilton, the four-time world champion who has already taken the 2017 title.

“Even though he is a really, really good driver and very consistent, I also need to believe in myself,” said Bottas. “I can’t put myself in a place of number two, otherwise I would rather stay at home.”

Bottas’ form has been under scrutiny as Mercedes battled to complete a fourth consecutive constructors’ championship and he fought to overhaul German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and take the runners-up spot in the driver standings.

In his maiden year with the team, Bottas has recorded his first Formula One wins and pole positions, but struggled for consistency.

Hamilton has been faster than Bottas in qualifying in 13 of the 18 races and has won nine times while Bottas has own twice.

Bottas added: “This year I have learned massively and I want to see it as kind of a learning year for me with the team, but starting next year with the people I know it’s going to be quite different and I just need to go for it and learn from all the hard times.”

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Lauda heaps praise on Bottas after Russian GP win

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Impressed by Valtteri Bottas: Niki Lauda

Non-executive chairman Niki Lauda heaped praise on Mercedes new boy Valtteri Bottas on Monday and said he was a “very good replacement” for retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg.

The three-time world champion Austrian admitted he was very surprised to see how calm the 27-year-old Finn remained under intense pressure in the closing laps of his maiden Formula One triumph in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

“The first win, the first Grand Prix win, in a racing driver’s life, is always the most difficult,” Lauda told reporters. “I know from my own experience.

“I remember mine very well because Emerson Fittipaldi called me – who was the world champion – and he said ‘Congratulatons! The next one will come easier’ and it was true.

“I told Valtteri the same thing. His next one will come easy now he has proved he can win.”

Lauda added: “He surprised me a lot because it’s his first race victory under such difficult conditions with Vettel in a better combination behind him. Honestly, he did a fantastic job.

“I’ve never seen anyone like him under this kind of pressure to win his first Grand Prix. He can’t do a better job than that.”

As praise poured in for the unflappable and popular Finn, Lauda was quick also to point out that it was too early to talk about an extension to his one-year contract.

“We are talking about this year,” he said. “I want to win this year. We have had no discussion about next year at all. This weekend, Valtteri did a perfect job — all that we expected of him.

“And, for sure, he is certainly a very good replacement for Nico!”

* From AFP

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