Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pinpoints reason he’s never beaten Lewis Hamilton to F1 title

George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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Valtteri Bottas has explained why he believes he has played second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton for the majority of his time with Mercedes. 2021 marks the Finn’s fifth and final season with the Silver Arrows, before moving on to a new challenge with Alfa Romeo from next season.

He joined the dominant force in F1 after impressing with Williams, replacing the departing champion Nico Rosberg who had decided he had achieved everything he wanted to in the sport by winning the 2016 world title.

Bottas came in and would have harboured hopes of repeating the German’s feat and being able to beat team-mate Hamilton over the course of a season.

That has proven to be too much of a challenge, with the Englishman dominant ever since.

Despite Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s protestations that there is no second driver, during that time there have been several instances when Hamilton’s races and results have been prioritised for the good of the team.

Bottas says he understands why, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less when he looks back on what might have been.

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“The thing is, there were some seasons that I started pretty strong, then there was unlucky moments, or maybe I had a bad race or two,” he admitted on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast.

“Lewis always kept performing in a really consistent way, all the time. And then, once there was a bit of a gap in the points, then obviously the focus starts to shift to the car that is most likely going to win the championship.”

He added: “I want to be the best – I want to be the champion. So in a way that kind of feels like a failure, that I haven’t been able to achieve that with Mercedes.

“But I’ve tried everything. I’ve given everything. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

In hindsight, the Finn also wishes he had waited more patiently for his time in the sun – but feels he would have achieved more overall if he had been given the security of a multi-year deal.

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Bottas has been given one-year contracts every season since moving to Mercedes, and he believes he would have been able to perform better and more consistently if he had he security of knowing he had more time in the car.

“If I knew in 2017 that I would be with the team for five years, then I think I would have allowed myself a bit more time to learn about things step by step, and also be a bit more forgiving to myself,” he added.

“In my mind I thought it was a one-year opportunity, and then the next year the same thing – it was always one year.

“So I’ve never had the peace of mind to give me a bit of flexibility.

“Knowing myself now and how I’ve felt since securing my future, absolutely [I think I would have performed better].”

Bottas will join Alfa Romeo from 2022, and revealed he chose to join the Ferrari-powered team because he felt moving on entirely from the Mercedes umbrella would give him the best chance of a clean slate.

He admitted he will miss the feeling of turning up to every race weekend knowing he had a car in which he could win, but refused to rule out a return to a top team in the future – specifically Ferrari.

“I can’t predict the future, and with this sport you just never know what happens,” the Finn continued.

“But at least for the next few years I will be with Alfa Romeo and that’s the thing I am looking forward to. I still have time in Formula 1, so you never know.”

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