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Wolff: Bottas ‘has done enough’ to secure 2018 Mercedes F1 seat

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Valtteri Bottas appears to be closing in on an extended Mercedes Formula 1 deal after team boss Toto Wolff said he “has done enough to secure his place” with the German marque for 2018.

Bottas joined Mercedes in January following F1 world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement, signing a one-year deal.

The Finn has made a strong start to life with Mercedes, taking his maiden F1 pole and win within his first four races, and currently sits third in the drivers’ championship.

Bottas has proven popular with triple-champion teammate Lewis Hamilton, who has said he would like the ex-Williams racer to remain alongside him in the future.

Wolff recently admitted that Bottas was in an “uncomfortable situation” waiting to get a decision on his future, but stressed Mercedes would not rush into a decision.

Speaking to NBCSN in Austria for Friday’s edition of Paddock Pass, Wolff stated that Bottas’ on-track displays so far this season had been good enough to secure a seat for 2018.

However, Wolff confirmed that Mercedes was thinking more long-term when making a firm decision about the Finn’s future, reasoning the delay.

“I think he has done enough to secure his place,” Wolff said.

“We just need to make a decision on what happens beyond ’18 and ’19, and we are looking at the situation.

“It is not down to him to ramp up his game or confirm his performance, that plays no role.

“He is certainly capable.”

When asked if Bottas was looking good for a one-year extension, Wolff said: “We’re going to decide through the summer.”

The driver market for 2018 features a number of high-profile drivers who are out of contract, including world champions Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

Alonso is known to be evaluating his options as he bids to return to winning ways in F1 and add to his trophy haul, with a Mercedes seat being one of the most lucrative on the grid.

However, the prospect of partnering the Spaniard with Hamilton for a second time after their volatile season together at McLaren in 2007 seems unlikely.

Hamilton even said himself on Thursday that he would prefer to keep Bottas at Mercedes than be joined by Alonso for a second time.

Vettel currently leads the F1 drivers’ championship with Ferrari after taking three wins so far this season, and is set to discuss a new contract with the Italian team over the summer.

Should Bottas be handed a one-year extension, his deal length would match up with Hamilton’s, making them both out of contract at the end of 2018 and allow Mercedes to manage both seats in tandem.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).