Bottas will not make it easy for Hamilton despite slim hopes

Formula One F1 - Japanese Grand Prix - Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan - October 13, 2019. Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas poses for a photograph with the Mercedes team after the race. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas will not make life easy for Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton even though the Briton is now within touching distance of a sixth Formula One world championship.

The Finn roared to victory in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix to narrow the gap to Hamilton, who finished third and set the fastest lap, to 64 points.

The 30-year-old Bottas is now the only driver who can still overhaul Hamilton, with a maximum of 104 points remaining to be won from the final four races, but his hopes are more mathematical than realistic.

Hamilton need not win again to clinch the title and would still be leading even if he fails to score for two races and Bottas takes maximum points. The Briton could take the title as early as the next round in Mexico on Oct. 27.

With Mercedes having wrapped up a record-equalling sixth straight constructors’ crown on Sunday, and sure of an unprecedented title double for the sixth year in a row, the Finn can pull out all the stops.

"I don’t think there’s any reason to give up as long as there is a theoretical chance," he said.

"What happened here is a good example because I was starting third with two Ferraris ahead, so it was going to be difficult to win, from this point of view.

"So, it’s possible. But I’m realistic as well and I would need to be very lucky -- that’s a fact -- to win all the rest of the races."

Bottas has three wins to Hamilton’s nine this season.

The Finn rebounded strongly from a winless year in 2017, leading the championship early on after two wins in the first four races.

His form has waned since, with Sunday’s victory his first since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the end of April.

In his third season with Mercedes and already confirmed for next year, Bottas has tended to fade in the second half of the year.

While blaming himself for falling behind Hamilton in the title battle this season, he used some earthy language to counter those detractors questioning his staying power over the course of a campaign.

"I nearly said some swear words again, I don’t know if I did," said Bottas of his comments over the radio after taking the chequered flag, before then using an expletive on live television.

He made his point with similar directness after his win in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in March.

"It’s such a good feeling and obviously there’s quite a few people say that normally I don’t perform in the second half of the season," he said of his latest win.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin/Clare Fallon)

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