Valtteri Bottas will be heading into his fifth season as Lewis Hamilton‘s team-mate at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team this year. His position as Hamilton’s team-mate has been one that’s been derided and critiscised by fans at points. Hamilton’s domination has been so huge that Bottas hasn’t beaten him in the standings at any point since becoming his team-mate.
He even floundered somewhat in comparison to George Russell when he was drafted in to replace the COVID-afflicted Hamilton for the Sakhir Grand Prix, leading some to suspect whether it was even worth having Bottas in the Mercedes team in the first place. That’s something that doesn’t really worry Bottas all that much, however; in fact, he claims that armchair critics actually motivate him to do better in F1!
“They really motivate me quite a lot,” the Finn said in an interview with Motorsport.com. “I’ve learned a lot from myself not to try and let those kind of things affect me.
“I try to avoid that negativity. But no matter what you do, there’s always going to be negativity: sometimes less, sometime more and it is the same with the criticism. But it’s a motivation to prove people wrong. No doubt. And I think I’ve said it before: sometimes I just don’t get why there is that kind of criticism.
“I guess there’s always a reason. But I don’t know that reason and again, I’m not in their position. So I’ve no idea what goes in their head…”
Bottas pointed out that he felt that one aspect as to why he gets so much flak from the armchair critics is that they underestimate how difficult it is to be able to keep up with somebody who is arguably one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen, even when they both have the same machinery.
“I think the people who really properly understand the sport and, look at details, and think of things in other people’s shoes or driver’s shoes, I think they understand… But there’s many, for sure, like, in any sport, there’s always couch commentators who might, you know, underestimate things.
“From my side, I can say that it’s not an easy job,” Bottas was keen to stress. “If you look at the numbers, Lewis is the most successful driver in F1 history, and I need to go up against him with decent speed and consistency weekend after weekend. So yeah, it’s not an easy place to be.
“But that really motivates me, and that’s the goal for me to try and beat him. That will keep me going and that will keep me pushing myself again, hopefully to a next level.“
Bottas did concede in the interview that there were points where Hamilton had managed to do something on track that was so impressive he couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
“There are times that I’ve struggled to understand how is that possible: whether it’s a single corner, or whether it has been a stint on a certain track with a certain tyre compound,” he said about those times when Hamilton has pulled out some of his most impressive moves.
He did add, however, that “there’s always reasons and we always dig for those reasons. The worst thing is to leave something that you don’t understand. I know that the team has pretty smart engineers, so they can always dig out the reasons and give an explanation and tell me how I can try and match that or do better.“