Valtteri Bottas has spoken about his feeling of there being a “knife at your throat” with the pressure to perform at Mercedes.
There will likely be several reasons for this from Bottas’ point of view, such as the challenge of trying to beat Lewis Hamilton in the same car, the fight for the Constructors’ Championship – although he played an integral part in Mercedes winning that title in each of his seasons with the team – and the looming prospect of only holding rolling one-year contracts, meaning his future was never secure beyond the end of each season with the team.
One of the main points of discussion in Formula 1 in the first half of the season was whether he or George Russell would drive for the team in 2022, before the young Briton was confirmed to have been chosen over Bottas to partner Hamilton – and the Finn admitted previously that the pressure surrounding earning new deals had left him feeling “eaten from inside” at times.
With those factors, it’s not that surprising that he described the process as being “very exhausting”, while appearing on the Talking About Me podcast by Finnish journalist Oskari Saari, quoted by RTL.
“When you feel like you have a knife at your throat, your head doesn’t do very well,” he added.
Hamilton described Bottas as the best team-mate he’s ever had in the sport, with the two having got on well in their working relationship – with the former Williams man taking over from Nico Rosberg upon his retirement,
“I remember Lewis and Nico arguing very hard with each other and it even got a bit political,” he said.
Bottas said that he did find Rosberg’s decision to leave the sport after beating Hamilton to the title in 2016 a bizarre one at first, “but now I can identify with him. I can say from experience that it is not easy,” added the Finn.
When it comes to unwinding, Bottas’ enjoyment of a sauna is well-known – and that was the place where he turned when things sometimes got a bit much for him, as he looked to come back stronger from a setback.
“The sauna is a sacred place for me,” he said. “Weird things happen, and yes, sometimes alcohol is used. Not so much to get rid of the pressure, but to clear the head and relax for the next race weekend.
“Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”
But Bottas has now taken up a new chapter with Alfa Romeo, having signed the first multi-year contract of his career and gaining crucial job security with his new team.
As they’re unlikely to be fighting at the front in the near future, he feels that some of the pressure from Mercedes is now off his shoulders.
“I can say that I have been laughing and smiling a lot more since I signed with Alfa,” he concluded.