Valtteri Bottas was part of five Constructors’ title wins at Mercedes but says the 2022 season has been his most enjoyable in Formula 1.
The Finnish driver left Mercedes at the end of the 2021 season when George Russell was given his seat. He moved to Alfa Romeo, where he seems to have been relishing life away from the bright spotlight that comes at a top team.
With the shake-up in regulations for 2022, nobody was quite sure what to expect of Alfa Romeo coming into this season but Bottas quickly proved both he and the team had pace, finishing six of the opening seven races in the points.
He has also cut a more relaxed figure off the track, from sporting bucket hats to posting more pictures of him skinny-dipping in remote parts of the USA.
Bottas went as far as to say 2022 has been his most enjoyable season so far, pinpointing the number of rivals he races against every week as a strong factor in that decision.
“In the past at Mercedes, normally it used to be only one team we battled against, so then it was just focused on those two cars,” he told Motorsport.com. “But now I can have six cars around that we need to be aware of. So that’s nice.
“This season is probably the most enjoyable so far. Okay, maybe you don’t always remember things, but it really feels like I’m enjoying F1 more than ever.
“When it gets to the racing it’s a lot of good fun, especially in the midfield and how different it is strategy-wise in the races. It’s more like one decision can jump you many places. It’s a different game.”
The 32-year-old also said the fact he has a multi-year contract with the team, something he has never experienced before in F1, has helped take away stress.
“This is actually the first time for me because even with Williams, it was always one year,” he said.
“It’s the first time I haven’t had to stress and answer the questions because now, for the drivers who don’t know, for sure it won’t be nice.”
Life away from the limelight has suited Valtteri Bottas
There were times during Bottas’ Mercedes career when he just looked like he was not enjoying himself. As much as Mercedes and Toto Wolff tried to make out they were equal drivers, it was pretty clear that when push came to shove Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme.
Bottas by no means had a bad relationship with the team and left with plenty of fond memories but, given his inability to properly challenge Hamilton in the same car, questions were raised as to just how quick the Finn was.
Now, stepping away from the big team spotlight, whilst also dodging a bullet with Mercedes’ troubles this season, Bottas has found a home at Alfa Romeo where he is the senior driver – a position he is flourishing in.
He has hit almost Daniel Ricciardo levels of cheer in the media pen – something previously unheard of for the two most prominent Finns in F1 of recent years – and has been enjoying the more fun parts that come with being a racing driver.
Bottas rocked up to the French Grand Prix sporting a bucket hat and was pictured taking part in a water gun fight between himself, team-mate Zhou Guanyu and team principal Frédéric Vasseur.
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It comes as no surprise then to see this relaxed mindset – much in the same way it has helped Max Verstappen – has translated to on-track success.
Bottas’ debut with Alfa Romeo saw him finish sixth and he bettered that with P5 at Imola a few weeks later. That form has tailed off in recent races with the car suffering from reliability issues, but it would come as no great surprise to see the team fix that and Bottas to be back in the points in the last nine races of the season.