In a recent Beyond the Grid podcast, Valtteri Bottas provided insight into the difference between driving for Mercedes and Alfa Romeo, describing his former Formula 1 team as more corporate than the pure racing team he drives for now.
History will show that Bottas was arguably the best wingman a team ever had, he was reluctant but inevitably forced to play the role to perfection beside teammate Lewis Hamilton, when the Finn joined Mercedes from Williams after Nico Rosberg claimed a title and then rode off into oblivion.
During his five seasons with Mercedes, Bottas scored ten Grand Prix victories while Hamilton took 49 wins and four titles, while – and a large thanks to the Valtteri, Mercedes racked up an impressive five straight F1 constructors’ titles.
Being Hamilton’s teammate kept Bottas in the spotlight through his time with Mercedes, just about every year featuring in “Silly Season’ reports, until the end of 2021 when the reports became true and he was sent packing to make way for George Russell at Merc, upon which Alfa Romeo seized on him for his experience and (some say) thanks to a cash injection by his former employers to sweeten the deal.
Bottas: It’s quite different I’d say
Two years into this next chapter of his F1 career, Bottas is well placed to compare a team like Mercedes, with their mega-resources to Alfa Romeo (aka Sauber and based in Hinwil, Switzerland) known as perennial midfielders: “It’s quite different, I’d say. Definitely, like, when I jumped from Mercedes to Alfa Romeo the immediate feeling was more like a race team, rather than a company definitely felt a Mercedes was corporate, versus Alfa which is just a pure race team.
“I think it was definitely an advantage for me to come from a team that was winning almost everything for the five years I was there. I’ve seen what it needs from a team to perform on that kind of level. So I think it was an advantage but of course, cultures are different in Switzerland and the UK, very different countries, different languages but both very, very hard-working nations.
While a new generation of hot-shots is emerging on the F1 landscape, Max Verstappen at 25 is already a double F1 World Champion, while a slew of potential F1 WDCs are already in the field; but even at 33 Bottas does not believe he is close to quitting the top flight: “I still don’t see my F1 career ending in the near future. I don’t feel any performance losses on my driving. So still, there’s this thing inside me that really wants to win that never goes away.”
From the best Wingman at Mercedes to Alpha-male at Alfa Romeo
As Alfa Romeo’s more experienced and unofficial number one driver, Bottas was asked if life had changed for him as the Alpha-male in the pit garage: “Yes, and no, still, there’s this thing inside me that really wants to win really, really wants to do the best I can help the team. So that never goes away because I want to be as professional as I can when I’m working.
“But then I would say all the other related stuff to F1 like the media or this bit, this bit or even critics, stuff like that, that thing I can take a lot easier nowadays. Like I don’t I don’t really stress about things like that. It’s just part of it. And I would say yes, certain elements of F1 are easier than that before.
As for improving as a driver without Hamilton as a benchmark, Bottas reckoned: “Time will show obviously, but at least I feel good. I feel like I have lots of energy and when I come to the race weekends, I have always full batteries always keen to go and everything is more fun. And normally when you enjoy the sport, the results are better. So let’s see.”
In Miami, last weekend, Bottas raced his 205th Grand Prix, 27 times in Alfa Romeo colours and has yet to score a podium, his last top-three finish was in Jeddah with Mercedes in 2021. His best result in the past two seasons was fifth at Imola last year, where the 2023 F1 World Championship heads next for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.