Hakkinen says no doubt Bottas can win title in a competitive car

Sepang International Circuit, Sepang, Malaysia. Friday 30 September 2016. Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing. Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams ref: Digital Image _31I7972. Credit: Williams Martini Racing

Mika Hakkinen believes that Valtteri Bottas has every chance of winning the F1 world championship, should he be brought in to replace Nico Rosberg at the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, next season.

The former McLaren driver and two-time F1 world champion, who had previously been part of Bottas’ personal management team, believes his fellow Finn is currently sitting pretty, as he told Finnish TV station MTV3 this week.

“The situation could not be better for a driver – a team wants you, especially if it’s a team that has dominated Formula One such as Mercedes, it’s a dream situation.

“I can imagine Bottas winning the championship.

“When you get to the team which is on top of the mountain, and which is able to win championships and races, then it’s up to you to develop, to take wins and the championship.”

Bottas is believed to be Mercedes first choice replacement for Rosberg, who announced his retirement from the sport just days after winning the 2016 world championship, leaving the German squad with a bit of a situation on the driver front.

Bosses at Mercedes have already had one deal turned down by Williams Martini Racing, with whom Bottas is currently still under contract to, despite offering a reduction in engine costs as well as the services of junior driver Pascal Wehrlein, who raced for the administration hit Manor Racing MRT last season.

That arrangement may well now be off the table however, as the former DTM champion is said to have struck a deal with the Sauber F1 Team for 2017, as a Mercedes driver however, he is still contracted to the German squad, and they could no doubt sort something out if required.

Williams reasoning for not accepting Mercedes initial offer is due to them being concerned that they would be lacking experience next season, with debutant Lance Stroll in the other Williams seat, two young drivers would not be ideal, especially in a season of new rules and regulations.

That predicament appears to have been resolved however, after talks to lure former driver Felipe Massa, who retired from the sport at the end of 2016, back to its doors for one last time, are thought to have been successful, and the Brazilian looks set to make a return to the Grove based squad to bring in the desired experience and seniority.

It is rumoured that the British team could be persuaded to release Bottas, if a more agreeable deal can be struck, with Williams likely to ask for the full £14 million cost of their Mercedes engines to be forfeited this season, to release their prized driver.

With so little time, and not many other drivers available to Mercedes ahead of the new season, that may be a request the Brackley based squad have to take in order to get their man, paving the way for the Finn to really show what he is made of.

Bottas’ trainer Antti Vierula, who has worked with the 27-year-old for some time now, is confident the Finn will be successful should he be given the chance to drive a competitive car next season, as he recently told regional Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat.

“Yes, after working for many years with different drivers, you begin to recognise the character. If Valtteri gets into a competitive car, yes, he will become a winner.”

“He demands a lot from himself and those who are working alongside him. Valtteri says exactly what he wants and knows exactly what he wants.”

Vierula also commented that he sees many common factors between Bottas and four-time F1 world champion Alain Prost, evidence of which we may just get to see should the move to Mercedes be forthcoming.

Bottas has proven talent through his journey to F1, and has not disappointed during his time with Williams. The FW38 did not bring the performance the Grove based squad had hoped for in 2016 which dampened the Finn’s abilities somewhat, but given a top machine, all the signs indicate he will perform.

Mercedes have confirmed the 2017 launch date of the W08 as February 23, and it is hoped they will have announced their new driver in time for the event.