Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas says he is ready to defy the odds and beat the British driver to this year’s Formula One world championship.
Bottas is entering his second season alongside Hamilton at Mercedes and will be given his first proper taste of this year’s car at the opening winter test which gets under way in Barcelona on Monday.
Despite claiming three victories in his debut campaign at Mercedes, Bottas spent much of the season firmly in Hamilton’s shadow as he roared to a fourth title.
But the Finn, who finished 58 points adrift of Hamilton, insists he can get the better of his team-mate over the course of this year’s 21-race campaign.
“Lewis is beatable,” Bottas, 28, said. “He is definitely the toughest team-mate I have ever had and he is one of the best drivers ever in Formula One.
“He was the best driver last season, but there is no driver which is unbeatable.
“I believe in myself and I believe in the things I have learned in the five years since I have been in the sport.
“I was able to show that I can do it at many races last year – maybe not during all of them – but I know it is there and I know it is possible, so that is my thinking going into the new season.”
Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg at Mercedes following the German’s dramatic decision to quit the sport five days after beating Hamilton to the 2016 title.
Mercedes renewed Bottas’s contract last September, but the Finn was awarded only a one-year deal, allowing the sport’s all-conquering team to keep their options open for 2019.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is out of contract at the end of this year, and has openly admitted he wants to partner Hamilton during his career.
“I would like to put more pressure on Lewis on track and be battling wheel-to-wheel with him more often than last year,” Bottas added. “If I perform well, then that will naturally cause some tension (between us).
“That can be a positive thing and makes both of us try even more to leave no stones unturned in terms of performance and keeps us pushing even more.
“(Mercedes executive director) Toto Wolff wants us both to be performing on a 100 per cent level, and that can provide some healthy competition.”
Bottas will get behind the wheel of the new Mercedes at the Circuit de Catalunya on Monday morning before Hamilton takes over testing duties in the afternoon.
Hamilton, who is bidding to become only one of three drivers to win the championship more than four times, will open the defence of his title on March 25 in Melbourne.