Bottas admits he “put too much pressure on myself” at times

2021 F1 Season

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Valtteri Bottas says he’s focused on improving his mental approach to racing after being beaten to the world championship by his team mate for the fourth season in a row last year.

Speaking to media including RaceFans at Mercedes’ 2021 launch, Bottas said he “had a good reset” during the winter break and reflected on areas he can improve.

“It’s important to switch off and important to disconnect,” said Bottas. “Many times when you step out from the sport for a couple of weeks, you start processing things and you realise things when you see the big picture and if I look at last year, yes there were races that I couldn’t affect, but then there were many races that I could have done a better job.”

Bottas out-qualified team mate Lewis Hamilton five times last year, but rarely managed to convert that into victory. Hamilton clinched the title with three races to spare in the shortened, 17-round championship. Bottas says he needs to perform at his best more regularly to beat his team mate.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Bottas won the first race of last season
“Still I think from my side the big thing is the consistency,” he said. “Many times I perform on the level that I want to, but then there’s times that for some reason I don’t and I feel like I couldn’t get 100% out of myself and the team around me.

“I’ve realised that a lot of that is the mental side of things. So [I’m] really trying to focus on, of course, all the learnings from previous years and still working a lot with my driving style and technique and trying to perfect the Pirelli tyres.

“A lot of the work and focus for me this season is the mental side of things. Trying to be mentally at my best at grands prix, trying to find the right way of approaching every single grand prix. Try and find more often the ‘flow state’ and that way, the consistency over the season.”

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Bottas admitted there have been times when he’s pushed himself too hard to perform at a higher level.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2020
Hamilton clinched the title on a tough weekend for Bottas in Turkey
“Some of my years in Formula 1 definitely I put too much pressure on myself. There’s been times that I’ve taken too much pressure from outside.

“Also vice-versa, that there’s not been enough maybe enough pressure from my side. It’s all about finding that balance and kind of playing with that.”

During last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff broke with his past convention by coming on the radio to encourage Bottas during qualifying. Bottas said he is working on how to improve communication within the team to ensure he makes a serious step forwards in his performance this year.

“The only thing to really let the team know in terms of how much they’re pressuring you is to discuss about things and it’s the same thing with myself.

“I need to be self-honest with everything and try to find a good way and [have] kind of a ‘happy-head’ for every single grand prix. But that’s the tricky part and that’s the same thing in every sport.

“There’s never been an athlete, ever, who’s been completely 100% of their performance capacity in every single event they’ve done. But how to get there more often? That’s the question.”

Finding those performance gains is the only way to challenge Hamilton, Bottas believes.

“For this year, although Lewis has won the titles [in] all the years of us being team mates that I’ve been with the team, going into this new year starting from fresh and with a new page, absolutely I believe that I can fight for the title.

“That’s, of course, the ultimate goal this season. That’s my target but it’s a long way until that and you need to take it really step by step.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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  • 23 comments on “Bottas admits he “put too much pressure on myself” at times”

    1. I think that’s the only way to get better in things you do in life… Just please do not try to be like Rosberg. It is not worth imitating…

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        11th March 2021, 13:23

        @krichelle Well, that might be Bottas’ only chance.

        Here’s the recipe to win a championship against Lewis:

        Bottas ups his game and scores 25-30 more points which cause a swing of 50-60 points between him and Lewis.
        Lewis has reliability issues which cause a net swing of another 50 points. E.g. If Lewis retires in a race he’s leading, that’s a swing of 32 points if Bottas wins.
        It’s also highly recommended for Bottas to cut across the track and crash into Lewis when he overtakes him to protect the 14 points.
        In the last race, Bottas has to make sure he stays behind Lewis for the entire race and protects his point lead.
        Throw the hat at Lewis every chance he has:-)

        You get those things right and you have a semi-decent chance of winning a championship. Although I do feel that it might be easier for Bottas to enter the Roland Garros and beat Nadal by serving only aces :-)

      2. why, because Rosberg was almost as excellent as Hamilton? Because if he started on Pole he usually got the win as well? I didn’t like Rosberg at all, but he drove the car almost on par with Hamilton (except rainy days).

        My feeling is, first priority of Bottas is to remain in Mercedes, the rest is optional, like being a champion etc. Because at this stage no one wants him in other teams if he is dropped from merc.

        1. That’s how I see it as well. It’s why Bottas will never win the championship

          1. In all probability, unlike every other driver on track this year (but exactly like Rosberg had it), Bottas only needs a single driver to fail to bring his A game.

        2. Rosberg usually converting poles to wins? Maybe when Hamilton was starting from P22, pitlane or P10 or something (also the reason why Rosberg got many of his poles), but certainly not “usually”

          In 2014 he had 11 poles and converted only 3 of those to wins while Hamilton won 5 of them. 2015, 7 poles and 4 of those won by Rosberg while Hamilton won 3 of them.

          1. “also the reason why Rosberg got many of his poles”
            Again plain nonsense. Rosberg had 5 poles where Hamilton couldn’t compete in Q3. That means he still scored 24 pole positions on Hamilton. There is absolutely no evidence Hamilton would have won pole if he could have qualified.

    2. There must be a lot of pressure on him mentally given he’s in a car that has easily the capability of taking poles, wins and championships and for the last few years he’s struggled to extract that performance out of it consistently while his team-mate has racked up an incredible tally of all three. That ultimately, no matter how good he is and no matter how deep he digs, the guy he’s sat next to seems to always be a tiny bit better. Mentally that must be particularly tough.

      I think he’s pretty decent and there’s a championship in Bottas but for many reasons it just doesn’t seem to all come together and stick, and so I think will probably be the last year for him to try. If not this year, then never.

    3. If he doesn’t have a mental coach, he should get one. Otherwise, it’s just blah blah blah.. Since 2017..

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        11th March 2021, 13:10

        I said the same thing – he has no way of overcoming this.

    4. Pedro Andrade
      11th March 2021, 13:06

      I think all this talk of Bottas fighting for the championship is worse. The guy is paired with one of, maybe even, the greatest ever. No shame in coming second. It seems much more unnatural having to hear this every year for the past 5 years, when there’s clearly no evidence of Bottas evolving enough to give Hamilton a serious headache.

      Bottas has likely reached his limit. He can reach very high peaks, but the ability to stay there is an ability in itself, arguably one of the most important. That’s what made Hamilton, Schumacher or Alonso great, they somehow managed to be 99% of the time at full intensity, while Bottas and other cannot. There’s always someone is not as good to the very very best, so no shame there. But at least admit it instead of going on and on about how this year is going to be the year…

    5. Which version of Bottas is this ? ?

    6. Nothing wrong with what VB is saying here, but what it comes down to is the gloves will have to come off and as he said he’ll have to ‘fight’ for it, and if we haven’t seen that fight yet I don’t see why we will now. All well and good to be in a better headspace to be closer to 100% more often, I agree with him, but then the atmosphere changes and yet another headspace is needed if there is an actual rivalry race after race. I just don’t think VB has the Championship fight in him for if/when it would come down to the real nitty gritty. He’s speaking from theory, from off-season reflections, but hasn’t experienced the real pressure of actually getting into a see-saw battle with LH. In no time he usually gets left behind early in the season.

      1. @robbie Yes. Although I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt this time, as he obviously has some pent up aggression (those FU radio messages), and knowing it’s soon curtain time, maybe it’s no more mr. nice guy finally. Let’s see.

        1. Should add that’s just the fighting spirit. He’ll still likely make the same mistakes of not being fully prepared (figuring how to warm up the tyres for qually perfectly, defending lines after starts and restarts etc)

    7. Usually the second driver performs better after he accepts his position in the team. And by second driver I mean the slowest one.

      Vettel / Leclerc was a good example. The more Vettel fought Leclerc’s dominance, the worst it became for him.
      Gasly / Verstappen another example.

      Bottas have a dream job in the eyes of any other excellent F1 driver. Hulkenberg, Werlein, Buemi, Kvyat,… they would be happiest to be the type of driver that finishes on the podium in every race.

    8. He just needs to go all out this season. If he overdrives and loses his seat then so be it, but if I were him I would start to really take a different approach. He’s too friendly with Lewis, he needs to start prodding him a little like Rosberg was able to do. Don’t get me wrong, I know that’s not his character, but he needs to change something a ruffle some feathers, otherwise it’s just another meh season that will lead to him losing his drive regardless.
      I know a leopard can’t change his spots necessarily, but come on.. show some something this season please Valtteri!

    9. What Bottas is saying in effect is that “I haven’t been trying as hard as I should up to now so that will change”.

      A rather strange position to take because if he hasn’t really been going all out so far why should he think he can suddenly change when such a determination has been voiced year after year. What is different this year? Nothing.

      Bottas’ only hope is that Hamilton is off form. If he is feeling ‘grumpy’ after the contract fiasco and his long term business partner has gone to other pastures, perhaps he will not be in the zone with too much other stuff on his mind and his performance will suffer and so give Bottas a chance?

      But people have been saying Hamilton will be brought down by external distractions for years, and it hasn’t happened.

      And if he were it is Verstappen who would benefit I suspect, not Bottas.

    10. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      11th March 2021, 17:57

      The only hope for Bottas is Lewis starts focussing more on his effect on the sport and the larger world and starts losing focus on the driving. I doubt that will be the case but there is a non zero chance as scientists would say. Lewis does crave battles, just not with team mates. Alonso and Rosberg rattled him because he couldn’t rely on the team to back him which is very important for a personality that has a higher than normal value on loyalty. The fights he wants are against Max, Seb Leclerc, against other teams. If Bottas gives him internal grief it won’t end well for Bottas.
      Bottas therefore has to do it on track and nowhere else. Given the vast array of responses Lewis has stored in his arsenal (good quote from Horner on radio 5 live today, “Lewis takes risks like a rookie but at the right times, that’s what makes him stand out”) I expect Bottas will be battling to beat Max again, not fighting with Lewis. He may pull a banger of a quali lap out every few races but Lewis was always a bit “Meh, I’ll beat him tomorrow” which was generally the case. If we go back to Lewis vs Rosberg, even if Rosberg got pole, more often than not Lewis had the upper hand in races. I can’t see Bottas getting better results than Rosberg without mind games, and mind games will guarantee a departure from the team.
      I’ll predict he will be in a battle with Max for second for most of the season and if Lewis decides to carry on, Bottas will be replaced by George for 2022. Whether he then goes back to Williams or leaves for a rally career is any ones guess. If Lewis retires at the end of 21 which I don’t think is likely given he is very interested in the 22 reg cars and the prospect of close following, then Bottas gets one more year alongside George and will be replaced by Max.
      This assumes of course that Merc is the best team in 2022! A likely outcome but a non zero chance they won’t be.

    11. Bottas is fighting Verstappen more than he is Hamilton. This is a bad thing regarding the machine he is driving. He almost lost 2nd in the WDC to Verstappen, who had 5 DNF’s against Bottas 1. Bottas should look forward, not in his mirrors.

    12. Bottas needs to listen to Gary Anderson’s podcast.

      The Eddie Irvine approach to racing will suit Bottas. Gary talks of how Eddie went to Ferrari and just got on with it. He knew he wasn’t as good as Michael, had no intention of beating him, just kept his head down and focused on his performance and built his stock.

      I would argue this worked very well for Eddie.

      He won races (albeit majority when Michael was out of action), finished on the podium regularly, scored points for the team and landed himself a mega contract with Ford after he finished at Ferrari. I’d say that although Eddie was never considered in the same breath as your Michaels, Mikas, and even the Frentzens I’d say, but it the end, he did well for himself and had a respectable career.

      Bottas is kidding himself if he thinks he’s as good as Lewis. Sometimes its better to accept where you stand and move on.

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