Valtteri Bottas will head into Formula One’s season opener still in dreamland after securing the hottest seat in the sport - but the Mercedes new boy insists he is ready to take the world championship fight to Lewis Hamilton this year.
Bottas, the understated Finnish driver, fills the reigning title holder’s cockpit after he was elected by Mercedes to replace Nico Rosberg at the sport’s all-conquering team.
The 27-year-old is yet to win in nearly 80 appearances, but he will start the new season among Hamilton’s chief contenders for a fourth title after it was announced in January that he would partner the Briton at a team which has won 51 of the last 59 races.
Mercedes’ unprecedented reign of dominance will face the sternest of tests this season following a sweeping overhaul of the technical regulations - but should they continue their success then Bottas, for the first time in his grand prix career which started with Williams in 2013, will have a car capable of fighting for the championship.
“I am really excited about the new season in Formula One,” said Bottas with just five days to go before this year’s curtain raiser at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
“It is a new era with the regulation changes as well as me changing to a different team.
“It is a great challenge for everyone, but especially for me. Mercedes has been winning for the last three years so it is kind of a dream come true for me to be in a team like this.
“It is a big year ahead and it is a great opportunity, but there is no doubt I will definitely need to prove myself to a lot of people.”
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