Bottas to stay with Hamilton, Mercedes in 2020

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Mercedes has confirmed Valtteri Bottas will remain Lewis Hamilton's teammate in 2020, ending months of speculation about his Formula One future.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff had a straight choice to make during the summer break -- retain Bottas for another year or replace him with Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon, who found himself without a seat for the current season. Ahead of this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix the team confirmed its choice by exercising its 2020 option on the Finnish driver's contract, ensuring it will have an unchanged lineup for a fourth straight season.

Bottas said: "I am very happy and proud to be part of the team for a fourth season and wish to thank every team member and the board of Mercedes for their trust and belief in me. "My performances have been getting better and better each year, and this is a great way to kick start the second half of 2019.

"My overall target is to become Formula One world champion. I believe that on paper, and from my experience with the team, Mercedes is the best option for me to achieve that goal in 2020. "We have nine races to go this season and I am determined to keep improving at every one of them. Now, all my thoughts are on Spa and delivering a strong performance with the team this weekend."

Bottas had started the season strongly with two victories but his downturn in form since winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April led to speculation the team would seek a replacement. However, Wolff was reluctant to make any decision which left either of his drivers fighting to save their F1 future, making it likely he has found a seat elsewhere on the grid for Ocon -- confirmation of that news is expected to follow imminently.

For Bottas, it gives him a fourth season at the team and another opportunity to fight for a world championship. Despite maintaining a good level of performance for most of his tenure with the team, in which he has scored five race victories, Bottas has struggled to consistently match Hamilton's level and once again this year has seen his championship hopes fade prematurely. Ahead of this weekend's race at Spa he is 62 points adrift in second.

Wolff was reluctant to jettison the Finn, who has been praised for helping create a more harmonious relationship at the team -- the man he replaced, Nico Rosberg, endured a fraught relationship with Hamilton during their intra-team battles for the title in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Wolff said Bottas' strong start to the current season played a big role in the decision.

"For 2019, we set Valtteri the challenge of coming back even stronger than we saw him in the first part of 2018 -- and he has achieved that, with some really impressive performances in the early races this year," he said.

"Although it has been his most successful first half of a championship so far, he is hungry for more and determined to keep on improving and raising his level. That's the mindset we want from all our team members.

"The results we have achieved together with Valtteri are no coincidence: he has been an integral part of our championship success in the past two seasons, his teamwork with Lewis has been exemplary and he has shown real strength of character in how he has responded to setbacks. "I'm delighted that he will stay with the team for another season at least - and look forward to seeing him raise the bar even further."