MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 08: Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP looks on, on the drivers parade before the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 08, 2019 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Valtteri Bottas is the closest challenge to Lewis Hamilton at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings heading down the final stretch of the 2019 Formula One season. The Finn is on course to achieve his best campaign to date by finishing second behind his Mercedes team-mate. However, Bottas will have his sights set higher than being runner-up this term.

The 30-year-old has time on his side to surpass Hamilton, although it will take a special effort in the remaining seven races. Hamilton holds a healthy lead at the top of the standings, holding a 63-point advantage at the time of writing. Mercedes have dominated the current campaign, even though Charles LeClerc has displayed his prowess on the track to win back-to-back races in Belgium and Italy to provide hope for Ferrari for the future.

However, for now, the German outfit have a lock on the top two places, and Bottas is backed in the F1 betting odds at 25/1 to take the crown away from the Brit. Since Hamilton moved to Mercedes, only Nico Rosberg has been able to deny him the title in the 2016 season. Rosberg was outstanding at the start of that campaign, building a lead that Hamilton could not overhaul despite his impressive end of the term. He has bounced back with back-to-back championships and looks poised for a third unless Bottas can produce seven flawless outings.

Bottas has been a model of consistency over the course of the campaign. He has finished outside the top three, only three times in 14 meets and one of those came through an enforced retirement at the German Grand Prix when conditions got the best of him, resulting in a crash eight laps from the finish. The Finn was outstanding at the Australian Grand Prix to claim victory in the opening race of the campaign, while he followed it up with another brilliant performance to earn redemption in Azerbaijan. Bottas has played second fiddle to Hamilton since the last of his two triumphs, which has resulted in the significant deficit that he has to eradicate to become world champion.

Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he has not been able to capitalize on Hamilton’s inability to win the last two races. Had Bottas been able to beat out LeClerc, he would have pulled within striking distance of his team-mate. However, the Mercedes driver has not been clinical enough to seize the initiative. If there is a criticism of his tenure at the German outfit, it has been his failure to properly push Hamilton, forcing the Brit to work extremely hard for his two championships.

The performances of LeClerc could have Mercedes considering their future. Hamilton is their established number one, but it remains to be seen whether they would add an heir to the throne to ensure their dominance for the years to come. Max Verstappen’s availability could interest Mercedes beyond 2020, putting the pressure on Bottas to justify his role. The next seven races could be very important for the future of the Finn with the German outfit and his position in the standings of Formula One.