Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas feels that he can “trust” his current employers more than he could Mercedes.
The Finn was signed to Mercedes by team principal, Toto Wolff, after the shock retirement of 2016 world champion, Nico Rosberg, ahead of the 2017 season.
Bottas was put straight up against Sir Lewis Hamilton, and he won three races in 2017 as he helped the German side to the Constructors’ Championship, earning himself another year.
The now 33-year-old was unfortunate not to win a grand prix in 2018, but he and Hamilton guided Mercedes to team gold again that year, and Bottas was kept on once more.
Two more one-year arrangements would follow after 2021, but the lack of job security at the Brackley-based squad became too much of a burden on Bottas’ shoulders, so he had to leave.
He landed in Switzerland with Alfa Romeo, and they gave him a contract until the end of next season, so he feels as though he can relax his shoulders and race without anything hanging over his head.
“I can work here without feeling any negative pressure,” Bottas told Auto Bild.
“I only ever had a one-year contract so I never knew if I would be continuing or not, that sucked.
“Every driver deals with immense pressure in Formula 1 but even that has a limit that cannot be exceeded or the performance suffers.”
Bottas’ role now is a lot different to what it was at Mercedes; he is the more experienced racer compared to rookie team-mate, Zhou Guanyu, and he is charged with using his experience to help Alfa Romeo develop towards the front.
The Swiss outfit therefore take on board all the input he has to offer, and it is a more profound feeling than the eight-time champions gave him.
“That gives you the necessary security and also the necessary trust, you notice that the things you suggest take effect because the team listened to you,” added Bottas.
“I don’t want to use the term ‘number 1 driver’, but I feel the responsibility and the trust that is given to me here.
“My role is far more than just driving the car, and I didn’t have that feeling at Mercedes by a long shot.”
Could things have turned out differently had the former Williams driver turned down the Mercedes seat for 2017?
No one will ever know, so Bottas prefers to focus on the here and now.
“It’s a good question that I find very difficult to answer, I don’t know,” he said.
“All I know is that I don’t want to be anywhere else at the moment but here.”
Audi are set to buy the Sauber team in 2026, and Alfa Romeo are walking away from Hinwil at the end of next season.
The German company will move the operation from just outside of Zurich to their base in the outskirts of Ingolstadt, bringing an end to Sauber’s involvement in the pinnacle of motorsport.
Audi have not yet decided their driver line-up, but signing someone of Bottas’ experience with a German works team might just be a good idea.
“I can’t say anything about Audi, but it wouldn’t change anything for me personally,” said the Finn with a chuckle.
“But yes, my experience with Mercedes is important. You not only learn what a gigantic apparatus is behind you, but also what mechanisms you need in order to be successful in the end.”
Bottas won 10 races with Mercedes during his five-year stay there, and he has scored points on seven occasions with Alfa Romeo this season.