Valtteri Bottas may not rank high on team principal’s list, but the Finn has talent and will bounce back from his current slump, says two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen.
Ever since his move to Mercedes, Bottas has been overshadowed by his five-time world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas is under massive pressure in 2019 since Esteban Ocon is lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce at an opportunity.
Writing in his regular column for Unibet, Hakkinen said: “Valtteri is mega quick, fit and hard-working,”
“I have no doubt that he will take the next steps towards winning races and a world championship title.”
“Victory in Azerbaijan was taken away from him by a puncture, and for much of the season he had to support Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes team came under pressure from Ferrari,” Hakkinen explained.
“Of course, Valtteri wanted to be winning,” he added. “But one thing you learn quickly in Formula 1 is that the road to the top is not always straight.
“I remember when I was racing against teammates and great names such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell,” he continued. “I was not yet winning, but I learned a lot from watching them, working hard in the team and improving step by step.
“It’s all about constantly improving, one day being quicker than your teammate, sometimes slower.”
The Finn also received support from Finnish F1 driver Mike Salo and British race driver Martin Brundle.
Writing for the Sky Sports website, Brundle said: “Valtteri doesn’t make many mistakes and is a very trustworthy driver,”
“But psychologically he has been bruised.
“Partly because of Lewis’ raw and consistent speed but also because of having to concede the victory in Russia and being cruelly denied with a puncture in Azerbaijan. And from thereon having to play a supporting role.”
But having a guaranteed seat for 2019 is a great opportunity for the Finn to prove himself, he added.
“He’s lucky to have another chance,” he said. I’ve got to assume that if [team principal] Toto Wolff knew then what he knows now, he’d have strongly considered putting Ocon in the seat.
“He’s been positioned at Mercedes as reserve driver, so we’ll now see what Valtteri has got.”