Niki Lauda wants to impose “number 2” status on Bottas

With only eight races remaining of 2017, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas looks set to be installed into a support role for the remainder of the season, with Niki Lauda believing that it is time for Lewis Hamilton to be given the ‘number 1’ spot in the team.

Niki Lauda wants to impose “number 2” status on Bottas

Prior to last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Bottas was a clear candidate for the 2017 championship. A fifth place finish however, meant that he dropped back from his rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, now being 41 points adrift from the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

Although many have written off Bottas for this year’s title fight, the Finn firmly believes that he is still in the hunt: “There are still eight races and a lot of points left on the table,” quoted Auto Motor und Sport. “Lewis and Sebastian have had no failures yet, and I don’t wish that on anybody — it’s just a fact. Something can always happen.

“It’s up to me. I just have to be on pole position and then beat my opponents,” he added, looking ahead to this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ title rivals, Ferrari, operate a very different system to the Silver Arrows, and have a clear first and second driver in Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. This has led to Mercedes to consider operating a similar policy for the remainder of this season.

When asked about the possibility of the implementation of team orders to allow Hamilton to close up his seven point deficit to Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship, Bottas said: “I don’t think too much about it because I don’t want it to affect me negatively. It is clear that from a certain point in the season the team must clearly put everything on one driver. But to me it seems a little bit early now.”

From the point of view from Mercedes however, driver hierarchy is something that it is considering: “You can only beat an opponent like Ferrari when everything fits,” said Toto Wolff. “We do want to keep ourselves open for all the options as long as possible, and we also know that there is no manual for dealing with these problems.

“Ferrari has the luxury of one driver being clearly ahead of the other, so for now we will decide on a race by race basis,” added the team boss. “Let’s see after Monza. It is a circuit that is good for us, but we saw at Spa that Ferrari has made progress.”

Niki Lauda however, believes that it is time that Mercedes put all of its eggs in Lewis Hamilton’s basket: “This giving away of points must stop now,” he said, referring to the Hungarian Grand Prix where Hamilton let Bottas through on the final lap to give the Finn a podium, honoring the team’s policy on equality.

“I was champion by half a point, so I know exactly how important every single point is when you count them in the end,” he added. “I know exactly what we need to do. Bottas did not have a strong weekend at Spa so it is already clear that Lewis has a better chance for the championship.

“If Lewis had not given away those three points in Budapest, he would now be only four points behind Vettel,” highlighted Lauda.
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