Valtteri Bottas has indicated that his persistent one-year deals at Mercedes began to affect his “well-being” during his five-year stay at the serial Constructors’ Champions.
The Finn claimed 10 race victories between 2017 and 2021 having signed from Williams at the end of the 2016 season.
He was hurriedly brought in to replace the retiring Nico Rosberg, who had just claimed his one and only world Formula 1 championship that year.
He managed nine podiums with Williams before his Mercedes signing, and had also been working with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff as part of his management team.
This relationship ended upon the Finn’s signing, with the Austrian admitting there would now be a “conflict of interest” had he continued as a part of Bottas’ personal management team while also being his team principal.
Nevertheless, the pair already knew each other well and the 50-year-old, who celebrated his birthday earlier this week, gave Bottas four one-year extensions on his contract, before eventually replacing him at the end of last year with another Williams driver – George Russell.
Bottas, who will now join Alfa Romeo in 2022, often played second fiddle to Sir Lewis Hamilton while the 37-year-old won four of his seven titles with the Finn as his team-mate.
The most notable instance of this arrived at the 2018 Russian Grand Prix, when Bottas looked on for victory before being told to allow Hamilton through so he could claim the additional points, as he was battling then-Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel for the championship.
Wolff also once labelled Bottas a “wingman,” which the 32-year-old said “hurts.”
Bottas often struggled at Mercedes, with him often coming close to Hamilton in qualifying but being unable to stick with the Briton on race day.
The new Alfa Romeo signing stated that the pressure placed upon him by Wolff helped his development at the team to an extent.
“Toto thinks that pressure is good for me. He’s obviously known me for a long time. I agree pressure for a certain length of time is good, and it can get more out of you,” he told the Beyond the Grid Podcast.
However, he conceded that constantly having to fight just to earn one more year in the sport began to wear on him.
“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?
“Toto says that pressure makes diamonds. I think, in a way, it’s true. But there’s also a limit. There’s a limit how long you can maintain that for your own well-being.”
The Finn will team up with Frederic Vasseur at Alfa Romeo this year, and the 53-year-old was in charge of the ART team with whom Bottas claimed his 2011 GP3 Drivers’ Championship.
Bottas won four races en route to championship success that year, and he remembers his time with Vasseur fondly.
“We’ve had some good chats with Fred; I worked with him in Formula 3 and GP3, [and] we won the GP3 title together,” Bottas explained.
While Bottas does not want too much pressure to be put on his shoulders, he is aware that there are still expectations from the team.
“But he understands drivers well. Of course, you can’t be almost like on a holiday mode; you need a certain amount of pressure!” he affirmed.
The 32-year-old is excited for the challenge of going from competing at a top team like Mercedes to now helping develop a smaller team like Alfa Romeo, who are expected to be towards the back of the grid in 2022.
“For me, it’s going to be really motivating, actually, with a new team, to try and bring my expertise and all the knowledge I have,” he said.
“All the experience I’ve gathered with Williams and with Mercedes, so it’s going to be really interesting and exciting. That’s going to be the pressure, from my side, to try and get to those positions that we want to get.”
Bottas will partner Formula 2 graduate Guanyu Zhou at Alfa Romeo this year to form the team’s all-new 2022 driver line-up.