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Sky F1 debate: Valtteri Bottas faces 'make or break' 2021 vs Lewis Hamilton as George Russell looms

The Sky Sports F1 pundits discuss Valtteri Bottas' chances of beating Lewis Hamilton in 2021, his recent comments about being "more selfish", and his possible replacements; Watch pre-season testing all live on Sky F1 from this Friday

The Sky Sports F1 pundits believe Valtteri Bottas is trying to "do a Nico Rosberg" in a "make or break" 2021 season up against Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas, who has yet to mount a serious title challenge against Hamilton in his four seasons at Mercedes, goes into his fifth with another one-year contract under his belt - but with the added pressure of George Russell waiting in the wings after a superb debut for the world champions last year.

The Finnish driver, 31, has said that he plans to be a "bit more selfish" in 2021 as he targets his first crown - a change in approach that reminded Sky F1's Ted Kravitz of the last driver to have beaten Hamilton at Mercedes.

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"Valtteri Bottas seems to be doing a Nico Rosberg this year," said Ted on our F1 preview for testing - which is live on Sky Sports F1 from Friday.

"He's shedding off any of the things that are distractions, and he says he's going to be more selfish this year - aware of the fact that sometimes that's not a very nice human characteristic but it's only a year out of his life that he has to be selfish.

"He's going to really try and do everything he can to go for the championship."

Sky F1's Martin Brundle and Karun Chandhok, meanwhile, agreed that 2021 was pivotal for Bottas' Mercedes future given his team's potential options to replace him in 2022.

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"I think it's a make or break year for Valtteri," said Brundle. "He's got nothing to lose and I think will come out of the blocks very quickly."

"If he's got another gear, and everyone talks about Valtteri 2.0 and that sort of thing - if he's got anything left in his toolbox he's got to deliver it this year."
Sky F1's Martin Brundle on Valtteri Bottas

Russell appears a viable internal candidate after the 'on-loan' Williams driver shone next to Bottas at the Sakhir GP, a race he nearly won, while Max Verstappen could also be available depending on Red Bull's form.

"Last year that Sakhir Grand Prix weekend was a brilliant opportunity for Mercedes to put their two drivers against each other in a direct competition," said Chandhok. "They created a mini shootout in some ways, and George did a superb job, let's be honest about it.

"So this is a make or break season for Valtteri. Being team-mates with Hamilton is probably right up there with the hardest job in Formula 1, also being team-mates with Verstappen. They're brilliant jobs because you get to drive the best two cars on the grid, but it's also the hardest job because your reference is so, so high."

Brundle added: "If he's got another gear, and everyone talks about Valtteri 2.0 and that sort of thing - if he's got anything left in his toolbox he's got to deliver it this year.

"Because possibly [Max] Verstappen might be on the marketplace, who knows."

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Sky F1 pundits on other key Mercedes talking points...

Can Bottas beat Hamilton to the F1 2021 title? (Ted Kravitz)
"Hamilton's an absolute consistency machine, and that's Valtteri's problem. Sometimes he'll turn up and say his mind wasn't really on it and he'll have an off weekend, by his own admission.

"Hamilton is a machine and stopping that with a record-breaking eighth championship on the horizon, is that too much for Bottas?"

What more can Russell prove at Williams in 2021? (Martin Brundle)
"You've always got lots to prove in Formula 1. He needs to really keep applying himself. It seems as if Wiliams have reversed the ship off the rocks and are turning it around and pointing in the right direction, which is good, but Russell will have to show - like he did in Sakhir - that he's the real deal.

"I said to him afterwards that he was born to be leading a Grand Prix, he was so comfortable."

What about the other Mercedes seat? (Karun Chandhok)
"The day Lewis decides to stop, the whole market is going to change - that whole driver market at the top end.

"Would Mercedes go with George and Bottas combination that hasn't got necessarily the proven championship challenging ability of Ricciardo or Verstappen perhaps?

"It'll be really interesting to watch the body language coming out of the Mercedes camp this season on Lewis staying beyond this year."

F1 Testing live on Sky Sports F1

New-look cars. New driver and team combinations. And just three days of track testing to get up to speed before the new Formula 1 season begins.

There's never been a pre-season testing schedule quite like this - and you can watch it all live on Sky Sports F1 from next Friday as Formula 1 2021 gets fully up and running with three days of action in Bahrain.

With coverage starting early morning on March 12 and running through the weekend, Sky F1 will be the place to be to watch the eight hours of live track action from each day - plus a nightly Round-up show and Ted's Testing Notebook.

Sky F1's Martin Brundle, David Croft, Ted Kravitz, Rachel Brookes and Karun Chandhok will be out in Bahrain to help tell the story of each day's track running and all the big stories of pre-season.

Coverage on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday features:

  • Live coverage of morning & afternoon track sessions
  • Nightly wrap show rounding up the day's key moments & interviews
  • Ted's Testing Notebook

In addition to the Sky F1 channel, subscribers can also watch the live action on their mobile by logging in with their Sky iD on the Sky Sports App.

The Sky Sports website and app will be the place for the live digital blog with updates, timesheets and free-to-view video clips of key incidents and interviews.

You can also follow the latest updates via the Sky F1 social channels.

The new 23-race F1 season begins back in Bahrain on March 26-28, with every race live on Sky Sports F1 - the only place to see the whole season live.

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