Valtteri Bottas believes consistently strong form is the key to securing a fresh contract with the Mercedes Formula 1 team for 2018.
Bottas was signed from Williams on a one-year deal after Nico Rosberg retired last December, just days after winning the 2016 F1 world champion.
While Bottas has had some starring performance already – including his maiden pole position in Bahrain and first win in Russia – he has also had more difficult days including spinning behind the safety car in China.
As Mercedes weighs up its options for next year, Bottas knows he needs to perform regularly at a “high level” to have a chance of staying on board.
Asked what he felt he needed to do to land that 2018 deal, he told Autosport: “I think consistent performance.
“It’s about delivering on the level where the car is, and helping with the development.
“It’s about working as a team, and winning races, which normally is what a team requires.
“It [Mercedes] is a winning team, at a high level, so they expect a lot from the driver.
“Almost every driver would like to drive for Mercedes, so for sure I need to perform to stay.
“My ambition is to have a long-term relationship with the team and I hope it is possible.”
Bottas admitted he is glad to have won for the first time in the early part of the campaign, as that Sochi win took a lot of pressure off.
“I was hoping for Melbourne [for the first win] – that was my goal!” he said.
“But I think it was nice it was the fourth race.
“It was nice it was in the beginning part of the year too, to get it done. I don’t need to think about it any more.
“I know I can do it, and the team knows I can do it.”
Bottas is 36 points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship after seven races, but knows that he lost good points thanks to an engine failure in Spain and that spin in China.
Of their overall speed over a single lap, however, Bottas is convinced that there is virtually nothing to choose between the pair.
“I think we are very close, I don’t see a difference,” he said. “I believe in myself.
“He has more experience. He has been with the team for a much longer time, and I see no reason why I could not match him always. I think it is possible.
“I know I can win races, I have proved it, and I can be on pole position, so it is possible always.
“But he is not an always easy team-mate to battle with.
“It is a great motivator for me to be with Lewis though. He is a great reference.”