Valtteri Bottas says his short-term F1 contracts, coupled with media speculation, has sometimes led him to feeling “eaten from inside”.
Now his departure from Mercedes has been confirmed, Bottas has spoken about how he is enjoying being able to race with “no pressure about anything” in his final few weekends with the team.
Bottas has spent his entire Formula 1 career on rolling one-year contracts and one of the main narratives of this year has been whether he or George Russell would drive for Mercedes in 2022.
The Finn had faced constant questions about his future before the news was announced and he admitted the amount of pressure and “noise” being sent his way affected him negatively, no matter how much he tried to keep those thoughts out of his head.
“You obviously try to convince yourself it’s not affecting you, and you try to block any negative thoughts, but when there’s a lot of noise – which can happen in Formula 1 – for sure, it’s not helping,” Bottas said on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.
“There is a distraction but you try to minimise the distraction. Yes, I think there’s been a few times I’ve not really been in an easy situation with the contracts and with extra talk and noise.
“Toto [Wolff] thinks pressure is good for me. I agree, pressure for a certain length of time is good and can get more out of you, but if you have pressure contractually for nine years of your Formula 1 career, year by year, it starts to eat you from inside, you know?”
Max Verstappen has defended Valtteri Bottas following Toto Wolff's criticism of the Finn's driving at the start of the Mexican GP.
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Despite the team opting for Russell, he now looks back fondly at what he has managed to achieve in his five seasons as a Mercedes driver.
“I’m proud, and definitely knowing I’m going to another team, I’ve had time to reflect every now and then on the situation because we’ve achieved some pretty special things together,” he said.
“Four times, hopefully fifth in a row, as a Constructors’ champion and you need two good drivers for that. And if you look at me and Lewis [Hamilton] as team-mates…the amount of points, wins and podiums we’ve got together, for me it’s hard to name a better team. I can look in the mirror. I tried, I gave it everything I had.”
He has won 10 races as a Mercedes driver but the Finn has largely had to play second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton as the Briton raced to four World titles in a row as team-mates.
Having had a championship-winning car throughout his entire spell with the team, he also admitted his time has been tinged with disappointment that he has not been able to win a title of his own.
“For sure, yes, because that’s ultimately…since [I was] a kid, it’s your goal, it’s your dream,” he said. “It’s been really, really strong in my mind as a goal and it’s been a force that has kept me working hard. It’s like every day, whatever I do for this sport it’s because of that – I want to be the champion.
“So yes, in a way that kind of feels as a failure that I haven’t been able to achieve that with Mercedes. But…on the other hand, I’ve tried everything, I’ve given everything. So it just wasn’t meant to be. At least, for now.”