Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas admits that he doubted himself at times last season and that he began to overthink his driving, meaning that it became ‘less natural.’
Bottas was drafted into Mercedes at a fairly late stage in the winter break last year after 2016 champion Nico Rosberg announced his retirement from Formula One. His season got off to a reasonable start, and he took his first pole in his career by race three in Bahrain. His first win then came at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia.
However, after the summer break, Bottas’ performance appeared to drop off, and he was being regularly beaten by team-mate Lewis Hamilton. This trend continued for much of the second half of the season until the last two races, where he scored another pole and then a win in Abu Dhabi, in what was his most convincing victory over Hamilton to date.
But the Finn admits there were occasions where he struggled, admitting to feeling ‘confused’ about the situation.
“After struggling quite a lot for a couple of races, it wasn’t easy mentally because I was quite confused in the beginning – like ‘what’s going on?’,” he told Motorsport.com.
“For sure you also start to doubt what you’re doing. Then also when you need to change some things with your driving style and need to adapt to many different things suddenly you realise it’s not that simple.
Then you easily overthink things and then it becomes less natural driving. But it’s going in a much better direction. If there’s going to be similar struggles [in 2018] I’m prepared for that.
And I’ve learnt massively from those difficult races so I think I’m a lot better driver as well than for example in Spa or Malaysia or Japan.”
Bottas puts some of the deficit to Hamilton down to his experience with the Mercedes car – even with the significant aero changes from last year.
“What he’s been doing better than me, I think it comes mainly from experience,” he said, reinforcing that there are ‘definite differences‘ in their driving styles.
“I think ultimately mechanically the car hasn’t really changed much from the last few years, in terms of how it behaves, and it was very different how the Williams car behaved.
So there’s been many things for me to learn, and I’ve been kind of catching up on things all the time.”
He also praised his team-mate’s work ethic as well as his natural pace.
“I always knew that he’s really talented for sure, and he’s quick in any circumstances always – he just goes in the car and he’s very quick.
But that also comes from hard work, he works hard with the team.”