LONDON (Reuters) – New Mercedes Formula One driver Valtteri Bottas has no intention of playing second fiddle to team mate Lewis Hamilton this season and believes he can emulate retired predecessor Nico Rosberg and beat the Briton.
“I feel it is possible,” the 27-year-old Finn told Germany’s Sky Sports television on Tuesday. “Nico showed beating Lewis is possible.
“I am not here to be in second place or worse. It is definitely a challenge, and going up against Lewis is always going to be a challenge, but for me a massive opportunity,” added the former Williams driver.
Bottas joined Mercedes last month as a replacement for Rosberg, who announced his retirement in December only days after winning his first title in Abu Dhabi.
The German had spent years trying to beat Hamilton, a triple world champion who moved to Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, in Formula One after a previous rivalry in karting when they were teenage team mates.
Hamilton won more races — 10 in total — in 2016 than Rosberg — nine — but missed out on a fourth championship due to technical problems and a disastrous power unit failure in Malaysia while leading.
Bottas has yet to stand on top of the podium after four seasons at former champions Williams, who also use Mercedes engines.
“I really respect what he (Hamilton) has done with his career, so many poles and wins and three titles. I still don’t have a race win so I have a lot to prove,” he said.
“I haven’t yet proved pretty much anything in Formula One, everything is still ahead.”
Bottas, who will join Hamilton at the launch of the new Mercedes at Silverstone next Thursday before testing in Spain the following week, saw no obstacles to the pair working well together and racing hard and fair.
The 20-race season starts in Australia on March 26.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)