Valtteri Bottas has admitted he no longer has to be “trying too hard” every week to be “something else” behind the wheel, and he can focus on being the best version of himself at Alfa Romeo.
Bottas largely played second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton in his five seasons at Mercedes, with the Finn often unable to beat the seven-time World Champion on a regular enough basis to mount a meaningful title challenge of his own.
He took 10 victories in his time with the Silver Arrows, but the team opted to promote George Russell to partner Hamilton instead this season.
After completing the fewest laps of any of the full-time drivers during three days of shakedown running in Barcelona, Bottas admitted there is “work to do” for him and Alfa Romeo to do before the season starts in earnest.
But now he is approaching a decade in Formula 1, he said he is wanting to focus on getting the best out of himself without the pressure of having to go above and beyond to match Hamilton in equal machinery.
“As a driver, I think you never stop learning as long as you want to,” Bottas told reporters, quoted by Motorsport.com.
we’ll just leave this here 😉 pic.twitter.com/hbYN4EoOxa
— Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN (@alfaromeoorlen) March 5, 2022
“So of course I’m always looking at areas I can be better. It truly feels like now I can just be the best version of myself, instead of trying to be something else and trying too hard.”
After a tough season that saw Alfa finish all the way down in P9 in the Constructors’ Championship, it’s unlikely that the Hinwil team will be challenging for silverware regularly in 2022 unless they have a significant change of fortunes, but Bottas said previously that he has not set any kind of limit on what the team can achieve together this year.
But having a multi-year contract with the team will allow him to bed in and build a project together, and have the chance to lead a team in doing so – but the Finn emphasised that it’s very much a team effort as they work to find a way back up the field this year.
“We’re in this together, that is the feeling,” Bottas said.
“Of course I can guide the way they go, if I feel like I have experiences from the past. In the end, we’re in this together with Guanyu and Robert [Kubica, reserve driver] and the whole team.
“For now, it’s been a nice atmosphere, and I’m more than happy to be here, and I want to thank the team for this opportunity.”