Valttrri Bottas has given a glimpse into the difficulty he faced during five years at Mercedes alongside Lewis Hamilton as he gears up for his 11th Formula 1 season in 2023 and second with Alfa Romeo.
The Finn joined the Brackley-based outfit in 2017 following Nico Rosberg‘s shock retirement, inheriting one of the most sought-after seats in all of motorsport.
However, there was one problem. On the face of it, Bottas appeared to have an excellent working relationship with Hamilton, but bubbling under the surface was a burning desire to usurp his teammate and clinch a maiden world title. It was a desire that would never be satisfied.
“For a competitive guy like me, it was hard to accept,” Bottas told Maria Veitola on Finnish TV show Yökylässä. “I’ve always wondered how I could beat him to win the world championship – it was a pretty gruelling five years.
“Only in the last one did I accept that Lewis Hamilton was a better driver. I wanted to win everything immediately [when I joined], then when it didn’t happen it was difficult to accept.”
Bottas did rack up nine race victories during his five-year stint with Mercedes, undoubtedly playing a part in one of the most dominant runs in the sport’s history as the team clinched eight successive constructors’ championships from 2014-2021, but was replaced in 2022 by George Russell.
Bottas needed a psychologist
Bottas, now 33, also opened up on the mental health issues he suffered with in his early F1 years after joining Williams as a rookie in 2013, admitting he became “addicted” to doing whatever it took to maximise his performance.
That resulted in adopting rigorous training routines designed to give him an edge both physically and mentally, but it came to a head during his second season when his relationship with food took a sour turn.
“I trained myself for the pain, both physically and mentally” Bottas added. “But it got out of hand and became an addiction. I was never diagnosed with any eating disorders, but they were definitely there.
“It wasn’t very healthy, I wanted to be the best and I thought I had to do it this way. If the team [Williams] said I had to weigh 68kg and I weighed 73kg, then I did everything to reach my goal.
“I needed a psychologist to help me recover and his first assessment of me was that I was almost like a robot, who just wants to achieve his goal and has no feelings.
“He baffled me. But it’s true that at that moment I didn’t have another life outside of F1.
“The 2022 season was difficult again, as my future was at stake and I didn’t know which team I would lead for. It was a big breakthrough to ask for outside help.
“Don’t think you’re tough if you don’t need anything and don’t look in the mirror. If a professional knows how to question himself, then many avenues can open up.”