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Bottas denies de-facto ‘number 2’ talks

Valtteri Bottas has denied that being called a de-facto ‘number 2’ driver had something to do with his motivation to win in Russia last weekend.

Until Sochi, the Finn had been basically outpaced by his highly rated teammate Lewis Hamilton since joining Mercedes, triggering a debate about whether the team should impose a clear hierarchy.

But he said anger with those questions never intruded into the cockpit.

“All the questions, all the speculation, number two driver and so on, it doesn’t get into me. It doesn’t matter,” said Bottas.

He told Auto Motor und Sport: “I knew the season was still young.”

So for now, with his first win in the bag, the team orders questions will end.

But a new line taken by the media and pundits could be whether the mere 10-point gap between Bottas and Hamilton will disturb the peace of their relationship.

“Lewis was the first to congratulate him in Russia,” team boss Toto Wolff insists.

“Of course they are opponents on the track but I don’t think the relationship will evolve in the way we saw with Lewis and Nico (Rosberg).”

Bottas agrees: “So far everything has been very professional.

“In the course of the season it could be a bit more problematic, of course, especially if it is about the world championship. Then there will be less talking and more fighting,” he admitted.

As for suggestions Bottas has now done enough to secure a contract extension beyond 2017, a famous member of his management team certainly thinks so.

“I’m confident that he’s going to have an unbelievable future ahead of him,” two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen told CNN.

But the former McLaren driver does admit that 2017 looks set to be a season-long battle between Mercedes and Ferrari.

“At the moment the Ferrari is really consistent in qualifying and in a race configuration,” Hakkinen said.

“Mercedes is quick for one lap but the long distance it’s really lacking some performance. So they have to find a solution for that.”

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