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Bottas wins stage on rally debut

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AUTóDROMO JOSé CARLOS PACE, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 09: Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 during the

It may only be January, but Valtteri Bottas has already got a win under his belt in 2019 – well, a stage win at least, as Mercedes’ Finnish racer wound up an impressive fifth overall over the weekend on his rallying debut at the Arctic Lapland Rally.

Driving a Ford Fiesta WRC prepared by the crack M-Sport squad and co-driven by Timo Rautiainen – the man who guided Marcus Gronholm to his two World Rally Championship titles – Bottas showed strong pace over three days of running on the snowy stages in northern Finland, even managing to win the short Mantyvaara 3 stage.

Bottas’ speed in his 380bhp Fiesta was enough to put him fifth in the standings, less than two minutes shy of leader Emil Lindholm – an impressive showing on his first-ever official off-road outing.

Bottas wasn’t the only F1 star on the billing either, as he comfortably beat fellow Finn and former Ferrari and Tyrrell racer Mika Salo, who finished the rally 11th overall in his Skoda Fabia R5.

And while fifth represented a great result for Bottas in Lapland, the Finn will now switch his attention to making sure he doesn’t finish in that position for the second year running in the F1 drivers’ standings, with Bottas knowing that, after a win-less 2018, he needs a strong season this year if he’s to keep his seat at Mercedes beyond 2019.

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