Valtteri Bottas is championship contender after Austrian GP win, says Martin Brundle
Bottas 35 points behind leader Vettel after Austrian GP win; Vettel says he's always considered Finn a title rival
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 09/07/17 6:53pm
Valtteri Bottas is now a genuine contender to Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in the world championship battle, according to Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
The Finn held off Vettel to win the Austrian GP and move within 35 points of the German and 15 of Mercedes team-mate Hamilton.
It was Bottas' second win of the season, and his career, and Brundle says he'll now have the self-belief he can become world champion.
"He's a world-class driver and he's a contender," Brundle said. "His confidence and self-belief, the team will believe in him, things are going his way.
"Numerically he's definitely a contender and psychologically I think he is as well."
The Sky F1 pundit added: "He once again showed he can handle the pressure - the pressure of pole, the pressure of Vettel bearing down on him."
Bottas had taken pole on Saturday by less than a tenth of a second from Vettel before getting the perfect start on Sunday to build a healthy lead.
A slow stop and blistered rear tyre saw him come under pressure from Vettel in the closing laps but, as in April's Russian GP, Bottas fended off the championship leader to take victory by half a second.
Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, agrees with Brundle that Bottas is in the title fight and thinks he is determined to take his chance.
"Yes [Mercedes have two guys capable of winning this championship]. They are in the game where they have to have one person have a good weekend if the other has a bad one. They have got that situation." Hill said.
"Obviously they'd prefer to have both drivers having a situation but then you get the situation they had last year and the seasons before where they've got two people trying to knock each other off the track to win the championship for themselves.
"Valtteri is not going down without a fight. He is a person with deep integrity. You sense he knows this is his big chance and he's not going to let this go easily."
Vettel: Bottas always a challenger
Vettel told Sky F1 he has considered Bottas a championship contender since the beginning of the season and suggested the Finn is under-rated from his time at Williams.
"I think he always has been [a challenger]. He's in one of the quickest cars, he's one of the quickest drivers," the four-time world champion said.
"He's been a bit under-rated in his Williams years because the car wasn't as good. He did a great job and Felipe was a tough team-mate for most of his years.
"He's giving a hard time to Lewis, who is well respected for a number of reasons.
"The more drivers at the front, the better it is for all of us."
Bottas himself also insisted he was up for the challenge, adding: "I'm still in the title fight and I'm only going to get better."
Don't miss a bumper F1 Report on Wednesday at 9pm on Sky F1 as paddock journalists Ben Hunt and Chris Medland join Rachel Brookes to both review the Austrian GP and look ahead to a much-anticipated British GP
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