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Bottas: Next three months the most important of my F1 career

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Valtteri Bottas believes the next three months are shaping up to be the most important of his Formula 1 career as he plots to gatecrash Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s fight for the drivers’ title.

Bottas has made a flying start to life with Mercedes since joining back in January, taking two race wins to sit 33 points shy of points leader Vettel with nine rounds remaining.

While Mercedes teammate Hamilton is the chief rival to Vettel in the title race, Bottas still believes he is in contention, making the upcoming stretch of races crucial.

When asked by NBCSN if the next three months were the most important of his career, Bottas said: “Yes, but I don’t think about that too much. I just want to really go race by race.

“I think that is the best approach, and not think about it too much. I know there is still, in theory, a chance to be world champion, and I believe it is possible because this is Formula 1.

“You never know until the last race and until there’s no possibility in the points in theory.

“As I said, just go race by race, being the best me here in Spa and then doing it in the next race and the next and see how it goes.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live across NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports app this weekend.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.