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Horner: Bottas not to be dismissed as Mercedes’ number two driver

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner believes that Valtteri Bottas should not be dismissed as Mercedes’ number two driver to Lewis Hamilton, calling the Finn “a very good choice” to replace Nico Rosberg.

Bottas was signed by Mercedes from Williams for 2017 following Rosberg’s shock decision to quit racing just five days after winning his maiden world championship.

Bottas is yet to win a grand prix, having scored nine podium finishes during his time in F1, and will be teammates with three-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton in 2017 – a tough task that others have struggled to manage in the past.

Red Bull appears to have a more balanced F1 driver line-up, with both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen winning grands prix and neither enjoying number one status at the team.

When asked if Mercedes appearing to have a set lead driver in 2017 would make things more difficult for Red Bull, Horner moved to defend Bottas.

“I’m very happy with our driver line-up. I think Valtteri Bottas was a very good choice for Mercedes, Williams’ loss was Mercedes’ gain,” Horner said.

“I’m sure he will be competitive, he is a quick driver, he’s been very quick in the lower formulas and I wouldn’t dismiss him to just being a number two just at the moment.

“I’m very comfortable with the two drivers we’ve got and I wouldn’t rather have any other drivers in our cars.”

Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda said after Rosberg’s announcement that half the grid had been in contact regarding the vacant seat.

Horner confirmed that there was a conversation regarding Red Bull’s drivers, but that it was instigated by Lauda himself and that the approach was knocked back immediately.

“Niki likes to talk as we all know. He does a lot of talking,” Horner said.

“He made an inquiry but it was quite a short call.”

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”