Valtteri Bottas Moves to a New Challenge in F1

After five years with Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas has bittersweet feelings about his time with the team.

Bottas won 10 Grands Prix, scored 20 pole positions and helped Mercedes win five consecutive constructors’ titles.

The problem for Bottas was that he was teammate to Lewis Hamilton and unable to realize his dream of winning a drivers’ championship.

“Yes, I definitely feel like, in a way, it is a failure,” Bottas said in an interview. “But looking back I tried everything I could have done.

“If I could go back in time, if I could relive those moments, I would still just drive my best, as I did.”

Thinking positively, Bottas, who joins the Alfa Romeo team next season, said, “That’s going to be important moving on, thinking about the constructors’ titles we won together, the huge amount of points.

“We’ve been very good teammates, I got some wins, had plenty of poles, so I need to take those good things with me so when I look back I think that, yes, I achieved something, maybe not yet the big chunk of gold I said to myself I would win when I was 6 years old, but still something.”

Hamilton said Bottas “is the best teammate there has ever been in this sport.”

The Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton, left, and Bottas, both finished on the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.Credit…Marcelo Chello/Associated Press

In a social media post from Hamilton when Bottas’ departure was confirmed Hamilton said, “Your speed and resilience has been impressive, but where you truly stand out to me is the human being you are. You are greater than you know, and I know there’s a bright future ahead for you.”

When Bottas joined the team from Williams in 2017 he hoped to emulate Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, who had beaten Hamilton to the title in 2016.

During his five seasons with Hamilton, Bottas said that “overall” he was treated fairly by Mercedes.

“Especially always in the beginnings of a season until the halfway point, for sure,” Bottas said. “If there was a points gap, then naturally people inside the team start to think it’s most likely going to be this driver who’s going to fight for the championship and not this one.

“Subconsciously, it can change the behavior of some people and their decision making.”

On occasions, there were “very clear cases” when he had to play a supporting role to Hamilton that affected him mentally. In the Russian Grand Prix in 2018, for example, Bottas was leading the race when he was asked to let Hamilton by to take the victory. He was again told to give way to Hamilton at the Spanish Grand Prix this year.

“I would say the first time that happened was probably in 2018, and it was really hard to accept,” Bottas said. “It was pretty tough.

“That wasn’t good for me mentally, the space I was in mentally. As time goes on, do you accept it if that’s the situation you’re in, being behind in the points? It makes it difficult.”

Bottas, who is from Finland, said he learned a lot about himself with Mercedes. He said he believed he joins Alfa Romeo as a stronger person.

Bottas won 10 Grands Prix, scored 20 pole positions and helped Mercedes win five consecutive constructors’ titles during his time with the team.Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

“I learned how this sport is actually so much more mental,” Bottas said. “If you really compare, if it’s a physical or a mental sport, I feel like it’s so much about the head.”

Bottas will need his new mental strength when he joins Alfa Romeo. He leaves a championship-winning team for one that has scored only 21 points over the last two seasons, with a best result of eighth.

He is hoping the changes to the aerodynamic regulations for next season, aimed at closing the disparity between the 10 teams and leading to closer fighting on the track, will push Alfa Romeo nearer the front.

“I questioned myself, do I want this, or should I try doing something else?” Bottas said. “That was also an option, but I never seriously considered leaving Formula 1 because deep inside me, I still love Formula 1, the competition and many things about it.”

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