Free of the pressure to keep his Mercedes seat for the 2022 Formula 1 season, Valtteri Bottas pulled off a terrific performance at Monza, claiming a podium finish despite starting at the back of the grid.
Despite taking an engine penalty for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that forced him to start the race from the back of the grid, Valtteri Bottas had a fantastic weekend that culminated with a third place finish.
It may not be a coincidence that this tremendous performance came on the heels of the announcement that he will be replaced at Mercedes by George Russell after the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Third fastest in FP1 on Friday, Bottas stepped it up later that day in qualifying, beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton by just under one tenth of a second, despite having given him a tow in Q3.
In the sprint qualifying race that followed, Bottas was flawless, winning to take the pole and secure three championship points.
Unfortunately, because Mercedes had fitted a new engine in his car for the weekend, Bottas was not able to see the benefits of his well-earned pole qualifying position.
Instead, he had to start at the very back of the grid.
But following his sprint win, his morale was not shaken by that fact.
“What can I say, you know? It’s been the perfect weekend so far and then I have a grid penalty, but you know, that happens. But it’s good to see that we have a strong car here, good pace. I’ll be fighting tomorrow, come as high as I can tomorrow.”
Not only was he thinking optimistically about the next day’s race; he insisted that a podium finish was still on the table.
However, thinking ahead to the race and what figured to be a brutal struggle from the back through what could be multiple DRS trains of cars, this comment by the Finn was taken by many with a grain of salt.
Regardless of the odds, Bottas fought from the back of the grid, gaining 15 positions and finishing in fourth place. He was promoted to third because Sergio Perez, who finished ahead of him in third, had been issued a five-second time penalty.
Coming off the back of the announcement that he will be racing at Alfa Romeo in 2022, Bottas had nothing to prove to Mercedes any longer and pulled out a stellar performance, earning the team some much needed world championship points.
No longer affected by the pressure of having to compete to keep his seat for the following year, he was able to race with a clearer head than he had in a long time.
While Bottas was happy with the podium finish that he shared with Daniel Riccardo and Lando Norris, he certainly didn’t seem too interested in sharing a “shoey” with the two McLaren drivers.