The start of the 2022 season will be a drastic change for Valtteri Bottas as he leaves Mercedes after five years to join Alfa Romeo. While the Finn will be leaving behind the successful Brackley-based team for a less victorious team, Bottas will have the opportunity to be the leader athis new squad.
Bottas has often been praised as the "best teammate" by Lewis Hamilton during their time together at Mercedes as he often helped the Brit secure numerous victories. However, Alfa Romeo team principal Frédéric Vasseur has been vocal about his plans for Bottas to be the team leader alongside Chinese rookie Guanyu Zhou.
In a recent interview with selected media, Vasseur discussed the history that he and Bottas have had over the years working together and what his 2022 goals are for the former Mercedes driver.
"We have a long-term relationship. He drove for me 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, something like this,” stated Vasseur.
"We stayed in touch because I'm close to the family also over the last 15 years, but I was crystal clear, and he is clever enough to understand that we can't offer the same things that Mercedes is putting on the table.
Vasseur also clarified that fighting at the top for pole positions and wins was not the main priority he has in mind for Bottas but rather being at the center of the team where he can thrive on his own and not be in the shadow of another driver such as Hamilton or Max Verstappen.
"To fight for pole position in Bahrain, it's not the topic at all. For sure, it's always a target to do a good job, but the most important, I think, for him at the stage of his career is also to be in the centre of the team and it's not an offence to Mercedes that he was always in the shadow of Lewis, but when you are in Mercedes, you are in the shadow of Lewis.
"When you're in Red Bull, you're in the shadow of Max and if you have a look under the drivers alongside Max the last 10 years or six years, it was Gasly, it was Albon, it was Pérez. Pérez probably did a better job last year than this season.
"It's a very, very difficult position and situation to be the teammate of Max or Lewis and, I think for Valtteri it wasn't too important to be considered as the leader at that."
Ultimately, Vasseur places great value on Bottas’s F1 experience and hopes that the Finn’s relaxed state from the second part of the season can be carried over with him to Alfa Romeo.
"Valtteri is coming with his own mega experience of the F1 with the speed that I think from the second part of the season, he showed a very strong pace.
"Also, probably because he has a clear view of what he wants to do in the future and he's probably more relaxed and that, I hope that we'll be able to develop something like this.
"I'm quite confident because I know him pretty well and we're on the same page on this."