F1 driver market beyond 2018 influencing Mercedes' Bottas decision

The potential movements in the Formula 1 driver market in 2019 and '20 are playing a part in Mercedes not rushing to extend Valtteri Bottas's deal beyond this season

F1 driver market beyond 2018 influencing Mercedes' Bottas decision

Bottas has settled in well after being thrust into the Mercedes line-up at short notice following 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg's shock F1 retirement, winning two races already and sitting third in the championship behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

While Mercedes is happy with the Finn's performances, and the more relaxed atmosphere in the team since his arrival after three years of tension between Hamilton and Rosberg, team boss Toto Wolff said the longer-term landscape of the driver market will influence any decisions.

"He's almost a no-brainer," said Wolff on extending Bottas's initial one-year deal. "I would just like to get the puzzle together.

Who holds the key to the 2018 driver market?

"It's not only about 2018, it's about looking forward and what happens in '19 and '20, the risk and opportunities.

"That's why after Budapest [in two weeks], and hopefully a good race again, I'm going to contemplate on a beach about what's right and wrong for the team."

Hamilton's current Mercedes deal runs to the end of 2018, while at Ferrari both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are yet to finalise deals for next year.

Red Bull has both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen locked in for next season, with team boss Christian Horner recently saying the latter's deal also covers 2019.

Red Bull has also taken up its option on Carlos Sainz Jr to remain at Toro Rosso for 2018, while his fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso is out of contract with McLaren at the end of this year as things stand.

Bottas expects talks with Mercedes about his future to begin during F1's summer break after the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"First we need to really speak about it before doing any announcement or making contracts," he said.

"We are getting to the middle of the season, the August break will be there soon, so normally discussions will start.

"We're not going to hear anything for the next few weeks.

"Like I said before, the main target is to have a long relationship with the team, that's what I want.

"We'll still have to wait a few more weeks and see how things go."

HAMILTON DRIVING 'BETTER THAN EVER'

Bottas's team-mate Lewis Hamilton's future was the subject of fresh speculation at Silverstone, with Mercedes having to dismiss rumours he could move to Ferrari and Hamilton intimating that he did not know what would happen after the 2017 season.

Hamilton quickly clarified that leaving F1 was "very unlikely" and said he feels he is in the best form of his whole career.

"I really, really do feel within myself I'm driving better than I've ever driven," he said.

"I may have said that in the past, perhaps with less conviction. Within myself, I know that right now I'm at my best."

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