Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas of Finland waits to start his first free practice for Sunday's Italian Formula One Grand Prix, at the Monza racetrack, Italy, Sept 1, 2017. (LUCA BRUNO / AP)
SINGAPORE — Valtteri Bottas will race for Mercedes again next year after being given a one-year contract on Wednesday, ending growing speculation about his future.
The Finnish driver has exceeded expectations after stepping in as an emergency replacement for Nico Rosberg, who retired from Formula One days after winning last year's title.
Despite having only modest results during his time with the Williams team, Bottas has won two races and formed a solid partnership with three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.
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"We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year, joining the team at the 11th hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport's best driver as his teammate," Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. "With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive."
Bottas is third in the standings and has secured a further seven podium finishes in addition to his victories.
Despite his good form, Mercedes seemed hesitant whether it would keep Bottas next year. Wednesday's announcement means that both drivers will race for Mercedes in 2018.
Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes steers his car during the free practice session at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Sept 2, 2017. (FABRIZIO RADAELLI / ANSA VIA AP)
"For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers," Wolff said. "The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors."
The mutual respect between Hamilton and Bottas is a far cry from the tense relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg in the three previous years. The pair criticized each other's driving after several incidents on track.
"Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I'm enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward," Bottas said ahead of this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix. "I am honored and proud to continue to work with Mercedes."
Hamilton is chasing a fourth F1 title and leads Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel by three points with seven races left. Bottas is 41 points behind Hamilton.