Lewis Hamilton is confident that Valtteri Bottas will be a title contender in 2017 following the Finn's win at the Russian Grand Prix at the end of April.

After the first three races of the campaign it was being dubbed as a Hamilton versus Sebastian Vettel season with the two drivers touted to battle for the drivers' championship. But Bottas' win in the fourth race has brought him into contention.

Vettel has won two of the four races thus far and is currently leading the championship with Hamilton 13 points behind. The Finn is a further 10 points behind his teammate and the three-time world champion is not surprised that his teammate is in the mix.

The Briton is also confident that the relationship between the two drivers will remain intact despite them battling for race wins and possibly the title. It was not the case in the last three seasons, as Hamilton and former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg's relationship deteriorated to the point of no return as they constantly battled each other for the title.

"I said from the beginning of the season that Valtteri was in competition so it is no surprise that he would eventually get a win," Hamilton said, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

"Of course he is a credible competitor. He was when he joined. Many of you, and perhaps the fans, too, came with pre-conceived ideas of how he was going to perform and he has proved everybody wrong.

"Fair play to him. He is going to remain a competitor throughout the rest of the year, so the fight will go on. We have started our relationship with a respectable foundation and I think that will continue," the three-time world champion added.

Hamilton and Bottas will resume their battle this weekend with all the teams at the Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix (12 to 14 May).

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton was one of the first to congratulate teammate Valtteri Bottas after his maiden F1 win Russia on 30 April Reuters