Valtteri Bottas must perform at the same level as Lewis Hamilton this season if he is going to keep his race seat at Mercedes for 2020, says team boss Toto Wolff.
The Finn had a disappointing campaign last year where, despite a strong start, he ended up failing to win a race while teammate Hamilton captured the world title.
With Mercedes reserve Esteban Ocon looking for a way back to an F1 race seat in 2020, Mercedes has an obvious option if Bottas does not lift his game.
Wolff thinks that one of the key factors that went against Bottas in 2018 was bad luck, which included him losing a victory in Baku when he ran over debris on the track.
However, he is clear that Bottas has to deliver at a higher level, something he says the driver himself is well aware of.
“Valtteri knows exactly where he needs to be next year,” said Wolff. “He needs to have all the bad luck gone and perform on a level with Lewis.
“That is what is needed for the 2020 year. He knows very well that, and he has that in him.”
While Bottas’ improvements on track did not turn into better results in 2018, Wolff is aware that the challenge to step up will only increase with Hamilton himself getting better.
“Lewis improving means Valtteri needs to improve,” explained Wolff. “I’ve seen that improvement all the time with him, but you are going against a five-time world champion.
“He needs a start where is right up there with Lewis and all the other drivers for the championship, that is what he needs.”
Wolff believes Bottas is capable of producing a performance that is good enough to take the fight to Hamilton.
“We are seeing the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last six years, and there is a reason why he is a five-time world champion,” he said.
“Beating a five-time world champion at the peak of his activity, peak of his performance, is going to be very difficult and Valtteri knows that. But I think that he has it in him.
“I think that he can win – he has proven it this year on a few occasions, but he had bad luck or was in a position where he could not win.
“I think if that turns into a positive momentum that is actually driving for the championship, I think that Valtteri can win the championship.”