Formula 1: Valtteri Bottas was ‘always on the knife edge’ at Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images,)
Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images,) /

Valtteri Bottas has a multi-year Formula 1 contract for the first time in a long time, and it has made a big difference in his approach during his first year at Alfa Romeo.

Following a five-year stint with Mercedes which saw him win 10 Formula 1 races, two-time world championship runner-up Valtteri Bottas signed a multi-year deal to compete for Alfa Romeo.

Throughout his time at Mercedes, Bottas was retained by the Silver Arrows on single-year deals, and almost every silly season, there were rumors that he would be replaced the following year.

Specifically, there were rumors about Esteban Ocon replacing him after the 2019 season. While that didn’t happen, George Russell ultimately got the call to replace the 33-year-old Finn alongside Lewis Hamilton starting in 2022.

Bottas recently spoke to Beyond the Flag about how having a multi-year deal has made a big difference in his approach, noting that at Mercedes, he was “always on the knife edge”.

“It does make a difference, as a driver, and especially for me because pretty much all my F1 career, I was always on the knife edge, in a way, with the contract, which, at some point, it becomes just a bit too big of a stress factor, in a way,” Bottas stated.

“For me, what is really nice and important is that I can focus on long-term success. Of course, we want to be at the top, but that doesn’t happen overnight, and everyone understands that. So we’re working on this project together for the years ahead, which kind of takes some of the pressure away, even though F1 is a pretty high-pressure environment.”

Alfa Romeo currently sit in sixth place in the constructor standings with four races remaining on the 22-race schedule. They finished in ninth out of 10 teams on the grid in 2020 and 2021.

Bottas says that the biggest challenge of moving to a new organization after five seasons, something he did following the unexpected retirement of Nico Rosberg in 2017 when he left Williams for Mercedes, has been getting acclimated to the new people.

“Getting to know hundreds of new people,” he said. “Getting to know them so well that you can try to motivate them and try to make sure that everyone gets the most out of their capacity in terms of performance.”

He added that adapting to how the team works has also played a key role in this process, but that has gone smoothly.

“And of course, getting to know the way the team works, because every team, they work a bit differently, even different words, technically, for the car, or different settings, etc.,” he continued. “We had a good winter to prepare for that, and obviously I knew already, like August last year, that I was going to be joining the team, so we had some time. It’s been pretty smooth.”

With teammate Zhou Guanyu being a rookie, Bottas is now playing a veteran role within the team, and it is a role he has embraced.

“It’s really natural actually,” he continued. “I’m getting older, so I accept the fact. But I still may have quite a few years in F1. My teammate is a rookie, and I can definitely relate to that when I started. There are so many things that you need to learn. You want to ask questions.

Next. Obvious Formula 1 rule change needed after Suzuka. dark

“He’s been great on his consistency and asking questions, and he’s been improving a lot this year. It is really natural, and I really enjoy that responsibility, having a bit more say in certain things technically in the team. So I enjoy it.”