Bottas ‘laughing and smiling a lot more’ after leaving Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas has joined Alfa Romeo for the 2022 season following five years with serial constructors' champions Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas in 2021

New Alfa Romeo signing Valtteri Bottas maintains that he is a much happier man since his arrival to the Swiss team than he was during his five years at Mercedes.

When Nico Rosberg retired at the end of his title-winning 2016 season following three brutal years battling with Sir Lewis Hamilton for the championship, Bottas was promoted from Williams to replace him.

His pace was quickly evident, claiming pole position in his third race for the constructors’ champions in Bahrain, before taking his maiden victory in Russia a race later.

He would go on to take nine more in the next 97 races for Mercedes, before eventually leaving at the end of 2021.

The Finn helped guide the Brackley squad to five of their record eight consecutive constructors’ titles, winning the teams’ crown in each of the five years he raced with them.

However, he watched his team-mate Hamilton take the title in four of the five years they had alongside one another, with the Briton missing out on his record eighth Drivers’ Championship on an agonising final lap in Abu Dhabi when Max Verstappen passed him to claim his first title in December.

As a result, Bottas was placed into a support role for the 37-year-old, in a situation that he says became “very exhausting.”

“When you feel like you have a knife at your throat, your head doesn’t do very well,” he told Oskari Sarri on the Talking About Me Podcast.

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The 32-year-old was only ever given one-year contracts at the eight-time champions, with team principal Toto Wolff – who also formed part of Bottas’ management team until 2017 – implying the pressure was good for him.

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Bottas agrees with this to a certain extent, but persistent uncertainty over his future year-on-year began to wear him down mentally.

“Toto thinks that pressure is good for me. He’s obviously known me for a long time,” he previously told the Beyond the Grid Podcast.

“I agree pressure for a certain length of time is good, and it can get more out of you.

“But if you have pressure contractually for nine years of your Formula 1 career, year by year, it starts to eat you from inside, you know?”

The new Alfa Romeo driver is known for a significant amount of time spent in the sauna, as was showcased rather intimately in the third season of Drive to Survive, and he revealed that he sometimes consumes alcohol while in there in order to create an easier headspace.

He says it sporadically works, but not all the time.

“The sauna is a sacred place for me. 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,” he explained.

“Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”

As for his mentality now, he implied that he is happier now with his new team than he was at Mercedes.

“I can say that I have been laughing and smiling a lot more since I signed with Alfa,” added Bottas.

The Finn will line up alongside F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou in 2022, with the 32-year-old and the Formula 2 graduate replacing the departing Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.