Valtteri Bottas claimed he was in a state of “denial” as Mercedes team-mate to Lewis Hamilton before a mentality shift in his final season.
After Nico Rosberg announced his shock retirement following his 2016 World Championship triumph, Bottas was drafted in from Williams to become Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate.
And it would prove to be an extremely successful pairing over their five seasons together, all Constructors’ titles going the way of Mercedes during that time between 2017 and 21.
Valtteri Bottas in ‘denial’ until final Mercedes season
The Mercedes intra-team battle was a rather one-sided story, however, Hamilton claiming four Drivers’ titles as Bottas was left in a supporting role to ensure Constructors’ victory for Mercedes.
Not that Bottas was happy to accept that. He would go into every season with a sense of “denial” that Hamilton was unbeatable and competed with World Championship glory in-mind.
However, it was in their last season together in 2021, when he knew that George Russell would take his spot for 2022, that Bottas feels he snapped out of that, coming to terms with the reality that he could not get the better of Hamilton across a season.
“You have to be in denial,” he told Autosport.
“I was in denial for almost five years because every year, I wanted to get back to the season and then fight for the title and I had to believe in myself.
“It was only when I knew that I was leaving the team then that I noticed that I was a bit more fine with certain things.
“I was allowing to accept some of those kind of things. So, for sure, in your career, you go through those kind of things.
“With Lewis, only in the last year could I accept to myself that in equal machinery over a period of a full season, I really struggled to beat him and that he’s probably better in certain areas. As a racing driver, to admit that to yourself is hard.”
Valtteri Bottas could not afford to be an ‘arsehole’
During his time alongside Hamilton, Bottas was at times urged to find a ruthless streak if he were to achieve what Rosberg did and beat his Mercedes team-mate to the title.
That was an idea which Bottas did not go along with, explaining that if he did, considering his Mercedes career was a story of one-year contracts, then the team could easily show him the door.
“I have no regrets because it was a tricky situation for me because I was every year on a one-year contract,” he said.
“I knew that if I wanted to fight for the title, I needed to be buried in this team. If I started to be an arsehole, I would lose my job pretty easily. They could always get someone else.”
Bottas moved on to Alfa Romeo-Sauber from 2022, as he now auditions to be included in their upcoming Audi era, while seven-time World Champion Hamilton has not won a grand prix for more than two years as Red Bull continue to set a standard almost impossible for the chasing pack to match.