Valtteri Bottas said the removal of pressure about his future had enabled him to produce “one of the best races I’ve had ever” at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The Finn inherited pole position at Istanbul Park when his team-mate Lewis Hamilton received an engine penalty, dropping him to 11th on the grid.
That left Bottas as Mercedes’ main hope against Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who started alongside him on the front row, but Hamilton’s challenger for the Drivers’ World Championship had no answer to the pace of the W12.
The only real concern for Bottas was when, after stopping for fresh intermediate tyres on a circuit that was damp throughout the 58-lap race, it had looked as though Charles Leclerc, who had taken over the lead, may run to the end on his original set.
However, Bottas chased down and passed the Ferrari, with Leclerc having to stop soon afterwards anyway.
It was the 32-year-old’s first victory since the Russian Grand Prix just over a year ago and came after Mercedes announced in early September this will be his fifth and final season with the team. George Russell replaces him for 2022, with Bottas joining Alfa Romeo.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) October 10, 2021
“I think from my side I have to say probably one of the best races I’ve had ever to this date,” Bottas told reporters after his triumph. “It feels awesome.
“I feel like since Monza [the first race after the announcement] I’ve been going well and had less pressure about it – well, there’s no pressure about anything, so I can just focus on the driving and that seems to work.”
It has been a difficult campaign for Bottas, hence why he is being replaced by Russell, but this was a weekend free of significant blemishes.
“Just apart from one little wobble in Turn 1 there were no mistakes at all, everything was under control,” he added.
“The car has been really good in every condition and I had really good confidence with it and could really control it.
“It’s almost like a relief that I actually won a race this year. It’s been a while, and it was not an easy win.”
That was because of the conditions rather than any threat from behind – and there was icing on the cake in the form of a bonus point for the fastest lap.
“When there is only one drying line it doesn’t need much that you go off, so definitely needed to focus all through the race,” he added. “Difficult one and it feels like a well-earned victory.
“At the end I went for the fastest lap, just for fun, and I got it!”