Mercedes confirms retention of Bottas for 2021 'at least'

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Valtteri Bottas will remain a Mercedes driver until "at least" the end of 2021, it was announced on Thursday.

The Finn's retention is not surprising with reports he reached an agreement in principle as far back as the Hungarian Grand Prix last month.

Also that same weekend, Williams confirmed George Russell, the man considered most likely to eventually replace either Bottas or Lewis Hamilton, for next year too.

In the announcement, Mercedes hinted at a 1+1-style deal, meaning they have the option to again extend into 2022 should they wish.

And for Bottas, the job security for another 12 months was also very welcome too.

“I’m very happy to stay with Mercedes in 2021 and build on the success we’ve enjoyed together already,” he commented.

“Thank you to everyone in the team and the wider Mercedes family for their continued support and their trust in me. I’m very proud to represent this great team and the three-pointed star on our journey together again next year.

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“The past few years have been all about continuous improvement, working on every aspect of my performance.

"I’m confident that today I’m the strongest I’ve ever been, but I can always raise the bar. Mercedes embraces the same philosophy: They always want to get better and are always hungry for more.

“Ever since I fell in love with F1 as a kid it’s been my dream to one day become world champion. I’m in the fight for the title this year and staying with Mercedes puts me in the best possible position to compete for it next season as well," he added.

“We’re in the middle of a shortened season and I want to give my absolute best in every single race we’ll go to this year. The puncture last weekend was a bit of a blow in my fight with Lewis, but I’m determined to come back strong this weekend on the same track.”

For Mercedes, keeping Valtteri for what will be a fifth season in 2021 is the safe choice as he had formed a solid relationship with Hamilton, though there are those who would like to see someone who could perhaps push the Briton a little more take his place.

So far, the closest Bottas has been to the six-time world champion at the end of a season is 58 points, and that was in his first year at Mercedes back in 2017.

And though he is continuing to improve as a driver, few believe he is a realistic threat to Hamilton and is little more than his, as team boss Toto Wolff once said, wingman.

Even so...

“We are very excited that Valtteri will stay with the team for at least one more season," the Austrian commented.

"We’re seeing the strongest Valtteri we’ve ever seen this year in terms of his on-track performance, but also physically and mentally. He is second in the championship, finished the last season in P2 and plays a very important part in our overall team performance.

“I’m confident that we have the strongest driver pairing in F1 today and signing Valtteri is an important first step in retaining this strength for the future.

"Valtteri is a hard-working, straightforward guy who has a good relationship with the entire team – including his teammate, which is not a given when both drivers are fighting for the championship.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him continue to raise the bar together with us this year and in 2021.”

As of yet, there remains no word on the future of Hamilton, who is also out of contract, though only last week he voiced his desire to stay in F1 at Mercedes for three more years at least.