Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Valtteri Bottas must compete at the same level as Lewis Hamilton in 2019 to secure his seat at the Silver Arrows in 2020. The Finn was heavily outperformed by Hamilton in 2018, his second year with the German manufacturer.
While Bottas managed to pick up a handful of victories in 2017, he failed to clinch a win in 2019, but came close on a number of occasions. While the 29-year-old slumped to fifth in the championship, teammate Hamilton bagged his fifth world drivers' title.
Bottas ended the year 161 points down on Hamilton, and Wolff says that Bottas' performances must be better for the upcoming season. His seat is under scrutiny as highly rated Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon is waiting in the wings, eyeing the front-running drive for 2020.
"Valtteri knows exactly where he needs to be next year," said Wolff. "He needs to have all the bad luck gone and perform on a level with Lewis. That is what is needed for the 2020 year. He knows very well that, and he has that in him.
"Lewis improving means Valtteri needs to improve. I've seen that improvement all the time with him, but you are going against a five-time world champion. He needs a start where it's right up there with Lewis and all the other drivers for the championship. That is what he needs."
Wolff, who used to be part of Bottas' management team, has faith that the former Williams driver can successfully challenge and beat Hamilton but understands that it is a very difficult task to hand out.
"We are seeing the best Lewis that I've seen in the last six years, and there is a reason why he is a five-time world champion," he said. "Beating a five-time world champion at the peak of his performance, is going to be very difficult and Valtteri knows that. But I think that he has it in him.
"He can win - he has proven it [in 2018] on a few occasions, but he had bad luck or was in a position where he could not win. If that turns into a positive momentum that is actually driving for the championship, I think that Valtteri can win the championship."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing