Australian Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas targets top-two finish to get 2018 season off on positive note

Reuters

Melbourne: Valtteri Bottas knows he needs to step up his game from last season if he is to have any chance of keeping his place at Mercedes and has targeted a top-two finish at this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The 28-year-old won only three races last year despite getting a drive for the dominant Mercedes team alongside world champion Lewis Hamilton.

FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 file photo, F1 driver Valtteri Bottas attends the press conference of the 2017 FIA Champions in Paris. Valtteri Bottas has no intention of playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton and is aiming to pip his Mercedes teammate to the title. Bottas joined Hamilton at Mercedes at the start of 2017 to replaced Nico Rosberg, following the shock retirement of the then world champion. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, file)

Valtteri Bottas joined Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2017 following  Nico Rosberg's retirement. AP

With a host of other drivers coveting the Mercedes seat for next year when Bottas' contract is up, the Finn knows this term he has to produce €" starting at Albert Park on Sunday.

"I do have big goals," he told reporters at the track on Tuesday.

"I need to try and step up my game and want to start the season well here in Melbourne. Last year, I was third in the race so for sure need to do better than that."

Before last year's podium, Bottas had a pretty poor record in Australia with 14th, eighth and fifth places in his three races for former team Williams.

He failed to even start the 2015 race in Melbourne after suffering a back injury in qualifying which required an overnight stay in the hospital.

"I haven't found it to be one of my strongest circuits in the past," he added.

"You know, I've always had a few mixed results but that's something I want to change. I can't have bad races for myself.

"I want to be consistent in every place, so I think there were some positives in the race last year, so hopefully, we can build on that and be quick in the qualifying as well."

His teammate Hamilton has won only twice in Australia and finished second for the second year in a row last season on his way to his fourth world title.

Bottas is very much aware that his primary function as Mercedes chase a fifth-successive constructors' and drivers' title double is to step into the breach should something go wrong for the Briton.

"If Lewis is having a bad day, or bad race for any reason then I need to be able to fight for the win of the race," he said.

"So I'm just going to really focus on my performance, go day-by-day, session-by-session, lap-by-lap and try to be at my best every single time I'm on track."

Also See: Formula One 2018 season: Lewis Hamilton believes in ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra as he chases fifth title

Formula One: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says he is not done yet; vows to continue supremacy next season

Formula One 2018 season: Sebastian Vettel carries Ferrari's hopes of ending decade-long world championship drought

Read more on Sports by Firstpost.