Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas knows he has the “full backing” of his Formula 1 team going into the 2019 season. 

Bottas heads into his third campaign with the German manufacturer having endured a winless year in 2018, while teammate Lewis Hamilton took 11 victories on his way to claiming a fifth drivers’ world championship. 

The Finn’s contract runs until the end of the year and while Mercedes has an option to extend his tenure into 2020, it faces an added dilemma over where to place its protege Esteban Ocon, who has missed out on a full-time seat for this season. 

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Bottas said the criticism he received last season has provided him with an “extra boost” heading into 2019 and Wolff has backed his driver to bounce back strongly. 

“Valtteri knows he has the full backing of the team to succeed and he's excited to get back in the car and show his critics what he can do,” Wolff said. 

“We had a good chat after the break; he was in a good place and has been able to fully reset after a season that was not always easy for him.

“He was refreshed; he's extremely hungry and wants to start racing again. I'm really looking forward to a strong competition between the two of them, racing each other hard and fighting hard against our rivals.” 

‘Mercedes has to prove itself again in 2019’

A host of rule changes - including revised aerodynamic regulations - introduced in a bid to improve the quality of racing in 2019 provided F1 team designers with an extra challenge over the winter. 

Mercedes is braced for another tough title fight against its closest rivals Ferrari and Red Bull in a year the reigning world champion squad could make F1 history by becoming the first team ever to claim six consecutive world championship doubles. 

But Wolff said the “substantial” changes have left Mercedes taking “nothing for granted” on the eve of the new season.

"The 2019 season will be a new challenge for all of us," Wolff explained. 

"The regulations have changed quite substantially. We have to start from scratch, we need to prove ourselves again - against our own expectations and against our competitors. 

“We start the season with zero points, so we're taking nothing for granted and there's absolutely no feeling of entitlement to be at the front. 

“In fact, with the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title and we're seeing all of them as a potential threat.” 

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