Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. WILL OLIVER

Bottas determined to make move a winning one

VALTTERI Bottas has described his move to Mercedes as the "biggest opportunity" of his career, but he is determined not to take a back seat in the championship race to teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas has moved to the all-conquering team to fill the vacancy left by Nico Rosberg, who made the shock decision to retire after winning his maiden Formula One driver's championship last year.

The Finnish driver has spent the past four years with Williams and admitted his move to Mercedes, winners of the past three world titles, was a "big step forward".

"For me it is one dream coming true, definitely," Bottas said as the Formula One season prepares to launch in Melbourne this week.

"It could be that there might be a chance that we can fight for race wins and even for the title.

"Obviously it's the beginning of the year but that is the dream for every driver, but I couldn't imagine this happening last year. It was a bit of a sudden team change, which was all positive.

"Definitely it's going to be the biggest season for me so far, I might have the biggest opportunity in my career, so I'm very excited."

In his four years with Williams, Bottas' best result in the Formula One drivers' championship was fourth place in 2014.

But he is setting the bar high in his first season with Mercedes and expects to be in the championship hunt.

"The only (reason) I do this is to win," Bottas said. "I will do my best that is possible but we haven't done a single race of the season so it's difficult to see where we are ranking. But for the team itself and for me, we want to win."

Bottas was immediately on the pace with his new team during Formula One pre-season testing in Barcelona earlier this month, producing the fastest time during the first week's test days.

While the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg was famously strained, Bottas said his relationship with Hamilton in the garage had been a smooth one, so far.

"So far it's been very good, it's been a positive start with him as a teammate but it's early days as with everything," Bottas said. "We haven't raced together in the same team and so on but I see no issues on the way. I have a feeling that we can work in a very professional way.

"I'm very happy to have him as a teammate, a three-time world champion, it's good."

Bottas has never finished higher than fifth at the Australian Grand Prix, but he is hoping to make an immediate impact with the Silver Arrows at Albert Park this week.

"It would be good to start the season with a podium. That needs to be the target," Bottas said.

Rebecca Williams