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Not many expected Valtteri Bottas to put up any real fight as far as the drivers’ championship is concerned, but a series of spirited performances sees the Finn with a realistic chance of pulling off what would surely be one of the greatest upsets in Formula One.

It may be a bit too early to think about it, but the undeniable fact is that Bottas is just 19 points behind his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the standings, who is a further 14 behind Vettel at the halfway stage.

With things so tight at the top, Bottas can’t help but believe that grid penalties caused by reliability issues may well end up being the deciding factor in this year’s title battle.

Bottas has already suffered one five-place grid penalty this season. He was demoted on the grid at the British Grand Prix because of a gearbox change. A week earlier, Hamilton had suffered the same penalty in Austria.

Even Red Bull has suffered such penalties. Ferrari is the only team not to face any such troubles, but both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have used one more turbocharger than their Mercedes counterparts. That puts them at greater risk of a penalty in the remaining nine races of the season.

“These are the rules,” Bottas told motorsport.com. “We all have to complete the season with a certain number of mechanical parts. If a team gets too greedy, you’ll need to change some parts more often and you pay a penalty.

“It’s true the penalty affects the driver as much as the team, but both lose quite a few points, potentially,” he added.

“For me it is what it is,” Bottas continued when asked if he felt it was fair that drivers should be penalised for a mechanical issue outside their control.

“That’s a good point as it’s definitively penalising the drivers,” he concurred. “And this year it can really affect the championship fight.

“But those are the rules now and everyone is driving within the same rules, so it’s okay.”

Bottas was rather happy with his current position at Mercedes after his winter transfer from Williams.

“I feel really settled,” he said. “I feel very much part of the team, the team has been really supportive in getting me up to speed so I can’t say that anything is lacking.

“For sure Lewis has been with the team for many years and that’s always a benefit, as I know for being with Williams for a long time.

“It got to a point that I feel that I can perform at my best level and we can continue to work.

“For sure there’s plenty more to come, but I feel good in the team.”

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