The Finn has impressed in his first campaign with Mercedes, claiming his maiden grand prix victory in just his fourth race with the reigning world champions. A second win at the Austrian Grand Prix and a further six podium appearances have hauled Bottas into title contention — sitting just 33 points shy of championship leader Sebastian Vettel and 19 behind teammate Lewis Hamilton — despite suffering a DNF in Spain.
“I was hoping to be in a slightly better position in the championship,” Bottas said when asked what he made of his performance in the first half of 2017. “I think we are still looking good for points in the constructors’ but we’ve had some difficult races, which is not ideal and for us as only winning is good enough for the team. That’s always going to be the target. We definitely have work to do and I have work to do.
“I feel there are things I can still improve as long as I keep working with the team as we have been doing so far. I know the second half will be better for me and my best performances are still on the way. That’s how I feel so that’s why I’m really looking forward to the second half of the season. I would say the first half has been average because I always set targets very high but obviously some good moments as well.”
Mercedes appeared to have overcome its early-season car troubles following a run of three victories in four races across June and July, however, Ferrari hit back to claim its first victory — and one-two finish — since May’s Monaco Grand Prix in Hungary. The result cut Mercedes’ advantage in the constructors’ standings to 39 points, while Vettel was able to move 14 points clear in the drivers’ championship.
Bottas is confident Mercedes can return to winning ways at the upcoming races in Belgium and Italy but says the German manufacturer needs to continue to make progress in order to stay ahead of chief rivals Ferrari.
“I really think the next two races at least on paper we think should be a bit better for us, compared to Ferrari. But I think they’ve made some good progress and we definitely do have work to do. They are quick through the corners and we need to work on that and we need to work on our maximum downforce package. I think that’s the main thing, so there’s work to do.
“There’s still many track to come that requires a lot of downforce. Spa is mainly about efficiency, Monza is very low downforce but then Singapore you need the downforce again. We are really working hard and trying to make the car better because if we don’t make any progress it’s going to be a tricky season.”