Valtteri Bottas is looking better than ever and intends to launch a serious bid for the Formula One world title in 2020, says his adviser Mika Hakkinen.
The coronavirus pandemic saw the season-opening Australian Grand Prix cancelled at short notice in March, and the campaign is now set to get under way in Austria on July 5.
Bottas will be out to quickly prove his worth to Mercedes, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel without a seat for 2021 after agreeing to leave Ferrari.
Meanwhile, team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to win the championship for a fourth straight year and take his overall haul to seven titles, equalling the record set by Michael Schumacher.
However, two-time champion Hakkinen believes Bottas is primed to challenge for glory in 2020.
"Valtteri has a great position in Mercedes. He's a mega great driver, and I am confident that he's better than ever," Hakkinen told the F1 Nation podcast.
"I have an extremely high expectation for him to be world champion this year – and that's what we've been working very hard on for years, [giving him] all the qualities, all the tools for him to get there. He's been working hard."
On Vettel's future and his departure from Ferrari, Hakkinen added: "His age is not a problem, he's still a young guy.
"He had a big disappointment with Ferrari, the enjoyment of the teamwork disappeared for Vettel, I think. He didn't enjoy it so much anymore inside the team because he was criticised all the time and when you're in the team it has to be shared.
"If he wants to win, it's pretty tough out there."