Approaching his fifth season as a Mercedes AMG Petronas driver, 31-year-old Valtteri Bottas is convinced his extreme focus on training and mental health will be the keys to finally beat his teammate.
The Finnish racing driver has been racing alongside (figuratively) – seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton since 2017. Yet, he hasn’t really been able to engage the Briton in a serious Title battle.
Mental health is a crucial factor to consider for every professional athlete, and Valtteri Bottas is no stranger to psychological struggles either. At Mercedes’ W12 car launch last Monday, the 31-year-old driver claimed he feels in great shape and he’s ready for the new season.
Despite the shorter off-season, due to the delayed start and finish of the 2020 season, Bottas says he has been spending his time between Finland and Monaco, thus being able to train in both hot and cold atmospheric conditions.
“I had the right amount of time off, and then I’ve had another good block of physical training, and from that side of things, I’m feeling very strong,” Bottas said.
“The same thing mentally, it feels like everything is in a good balance in my life, and I’ve been enjoying now being here, busy with the team and preparing for the season, and for now, everything is perfect.
Moreover, he said he has focused extensively on keeping a “happy head”.
“Although Lewis has won the titles, [whilst we have been] teammates over the years I’ve been with the team, I’m going into the new year starting afresh with this edge,” he said confidently. Last season the Finnish only scored two wins, compared to the 11 of teammate Lewis Hamilton, and saw his hopes of winning the title narrowing down as races went on.
“A lot of the work and focus for me this season is the mental side of things,” Bottas said.
However, Bottas’ confidence stems from the deep work he did on his mental health over the winter months. The Finn admitted that he struggled to be “honest” with himself over the last few seasons over the amount of pressure he has faced competing for the Brackley-based team.
“Some of my years in Formula 1, definitely I put too much pressure on myself; there have been times where I’ve taken too much pressure from the outside and there’s been also vice versa,” he commented, “that there has not been may be enough pressure from my side. It’s all about finding that balance and playing with that.
Bottas said he’s going to focus on approaching every Grand Prix with the right mindset and attitude.
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“I need to be… honest with everything and try to find a good way and have a happy head for every single Grand Prix.
“But that’s the tricky part, that’s the same thing in every sport: there’s not been an athlete ever, who’s been completely 100% of their performance capacity in every single event they’ve done, but I have to get there more often”.
Bottas’ words sound like a deja-vu. Back in 2019, he described himself as ready to turn into a better version of himself i.e. “Bottas 2.0” then, in 2020, he was sure he “had a plan to beat Hamilton”.
Yet, while it is undeniable that he is a pretty solid driver, whose performances have improved steadily compared to 2018, he has never shown the real ability to challenge his teammate.
The stakes for the Finn are even higher – both he and Hamilton are contracted with Mercedes until the end of the 2021 campaign. However, the latter is running for his eighth consecutive World Title, while the former has never won one. Additionally, Red Bull and Honda are pressuring to win their first title together: Bottas has definitely more to think about than just Hamilton.