By Abishek Takle
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) – Valtteri Bottas will stay at Mercedes for another year, the Formula One champions said on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Finn, who joined the team in 2017 after Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement, was confirmed ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix as Formula One returned from its summer break on Thursday.
“My performances have been getting better and better each year, and this is a great way to kick start the second half of 2019,” Bottas said in a statement.
“My overall target is to become Formula One world champion.
“From my experience with the team, Mercedes is the best option for me to achieve that goal in 2020.”
Bottas bounced back strongly this season after a disappointing 2018 by winning the first race in Australia.
Winless in 2018, he has taken two victories and a further seven podiums from 12 races this season.
Following his triumph at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April, the Finn has faded during recent races and trails team mate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 62 points.
But his improved form convinced Mercedes bosses to retain Bottas, who has brought intra-team harmony to the world champions after several acrimonious years with Hamilton and Rosberg.
“For 2019, we set Valtteri the challenge of coming back even stronger than we saw him in the first part of 2018,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
“And he has achieved that, with some really impressive performances in the early races this year.”
Wolff had previously said the team would choose either Bottas or 22-year-old Esteban Ocon as five-time champion Hamilton’s team mate next season.
Frenchman Ocon, without a drive this season, has been strongly linked with a move to Renault where he could replace Nico Hulkenberg alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Pritha Sarkar)