Valtteri Bottas has been warned that he must challenge Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One championship this season or he runs the risk of being labelled as just a "number two" driver at Mercedes.
Former Formula One driver Mark Webber has warned the Finn that if he doesn't "take the fight to Lewis" this season, then he will simply be labelled as nothing more than Hamilton's "stooge" at Mercedes.
Webber, who was often labelled as a "no.2" driver during his time partnering four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull claims that Bottas needs to make a quick impression if he is to avoid receiving the same tag.
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The 40-year old, who now works as a commentator for Channel 4, said: “Valtteri will be put in the bracket of being a stooge unless he takes the fight to Lewis.
“Felipe Massa and myself were both so-called No 2 drivers yet we managed to take championship battles to the last race.
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“If Felipe had got that championship for Ferrari in 2008 instead of Lewis and if I had got that championship in Abu Dhabi in 2010, then we would never have been classed as a No 2."
Webber also believes that if Hamilton becomes complacent and relies on Bottas as a resource in his quest for championship glory then his new Mercedes teammate could take advantage.
“Lewis is so battled-hardened and he knows how to put these campaigns together.
“But, is he in love with the resources and how is he going to use them to his advantage? Bottas is going to be all over that.
“If Lewis is not willing to put in the hard word work because he relies on just turning up and performing, Valtteri will be working hard and learning."
Meanwhile, Webber's new colleague at Channel 4 David Coulthard believes that it isn't out of the realms of possibility for Bottas to spring a massive shock and challenge Hamilton for the title this season.
Coulthard claimed that although the "evidence of Bottas at Williams suggests he's not on Hamilton's level", that "former Lotus boss Peter Warr once said Nigel Mansell would never win a Grand Prix ‘as long as I have a hole in my a**e’....and he went on to win a lot!"
“He got himself into an exceptional car and won a World Championship.
“Maybe Bottas is suddenly going to appear as this winning machine nobody saw coming, including Lewis.”
The 2017 F1 season gets underway this weekend as the drivers take to Australian for the traditional opener.
Can Bottas really challenge Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One championship this season? Have YOUR say in the comments below.
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