HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas has signed a new deal with Mercedes that could see him stay for two more years, the Formula One world champions announced at the German Grand Prix on Friday.
The announcement comes a day after Mercedes confirmed four-times world champion Lewis Hamilton would be with the team until the end of 2020.
Mercedes said in a statement that the 28-year-old, who joined the team last year after 2016 champion Nico Rosberg retired abruptly, was confirmed for 2019 with an option for 2020.
“Valtteri’s performances have been excellent this season and, if not for our mistakes and his misfortune, he could be leading the drivers’ championship at the moment,” team boss Toto Wolff said.
“When we took the decision in favour of Valtteri for 2019, it wasn’t just about his undoubted speed and work ethic, but also a question of character.
“His relationship with the team, including Lewis, is open and trusting, without any politics at all. Those are the ingredients you need when you’re fighting strong rivals in both championships and they mirror the values inside the team.”
Bottas is currently fifth in the championship, 59 points behind second-placed Hamilton, and has yet to win a race this season.
He has, however, finished second four times.
Hamilton has won three races and is eight points behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The Finn had sounded confident on Thursday that he would be staying after speculation that Mercedes might bring in their French protege Esteban Ocon from Force India.
The announcement also ends any lingering hope of Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo racing for the Silver Arrows next season.
Bottas said it was great to make the announcement at Hockenheim, a home race for the team and the circuit where he had his first single-seater wins in 2007.
“This year, with a full winter of preparation, I have been able to make a good step forward — and I believe that there is still more to come,” he said.
“We have not been so lucky in the races this year but the team knows how I am performing, and this is a great sign of confidence in me and my driving.
“We have a big battle on our hands right now, so it’s good to have the future clear for everybody. It means we can have a full focus on the championship fight.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien