Bottas starts bid for 2018 Mercedes contract

Valtteri Bottas' hopes of securing a new contract beyond 2017 took a big step forwards in Russia.

In his fourth race since switching from Williams to Mercedes, and amid reports he is a mere 'number 2' driver, the Finn won at Sochi.

And not just that, he also comprehensively outpaced his highly rated teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout the weekend.

"We need to find out why he (Hamilton) was not happy with his car," team chairman Niki Lauda said.

Boss Toto Wolff said the broad reason for Mercedes' on and off troubles so far in 2017 is the tyres.

"It seems that Ferrari has a wider range of operating temperatures in the way they use the tyres," he said.

Lauda agreed: "This was the 100pc confirmation that Ferrari is the new benchmark."

But also clear is that Bottas' place on the team now seems more secure. Indeed, the Finn might now be thinking about a shot at the world championship.

"Who knows?" said Lauda. "He won one race, his first victory, so now we will see but I think the next ones are always easier for a driver."

As for whether Bottas has now done enough to secure a contract extension for 2018, Wolff answered: "I think to discuss his position in the team after a few races is foolish.

"He should be given some time, because in the junior categories he did excellent results, and there was never a season when he was at Williams where he failed to beat his teammate.

"Now he has become Lewis Hamilton's teammate, he has a pole position and he won the race today," the Austrian added.

So for now, Wolff said he is happy with his choice about retired world champion Nico Rosberg's 2017 replacement.

"This race showed that our decision for Valtteri was right," he told Auto Bild in Russia.

"Both Valtteri and Nico are very analytical, with a calm approach. But the balance between him and Lewis also works well, and this dynamic is part of the success."

(GMM)

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