Valtteri Bottas entered the thick of the Formula 1 championship fight by taking his second win of the season on Sunday in Austria, giving the Finn the belief he can battle with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas fended off Vettel in the dying stages at the Red Bull Ring to hold on and take victory for Mercedes, harking back to his maiden F1 win in Russia earlier this year.
Bottas had controlled the race and was more than eight seconds clear of Vettel at one stage, only for a bold strategy from Ferrari to bring the German driver back into contention.
“I had a bit of a déjà vu in the end with what happened in Russia, he was catching up. The problem in the last stint, I had a massive blister on the rear left since lap five of that stint, so that made it quite tricky,” Bottas explained on the podium.
“In the beginning I could control the pace, but in the end the backmarkers made it quite tricky. Really happy, it’s only my second win in my career. Thank you guys for the support. Massive thank you to the team for making this possible, so thank you guys.
“It’s still a long year ahead. We’re not even halfway. This makes good for the points, but it’s still early days and we’re still developing as a team.”
The result saw Bottas draw to within 35 points of Vettel at the front of the drivers’ championship, and is now just 15 back from Hamilton, who has been perceived to be leading Mercedes’ charge this season.
When asked about a title bid, Bottas said: “We’re not even in the halfway of the year, so definitely I believe and the team believes.
“Still a long year ahead. Like I said, we are still developing. I’m just loving every moment and it’s going to be good.”
Despite his jovial mood on the podium, Bottas could not be persuaded to be inducted into the ‘shoey’ club by Daniel Ricciardo, instead hurrying away with his trophy in hand.