Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas has revealed that he “absolutely believes” he can win the Formula One 2021 world title, and has spent the winter months working on a “step by step” plan to make it happen.
Mental health is something that has not always been talked about enough within life, and especially in sport, and Formula One is no different.
However, now is a time that people can be more honest about their mindset, and Bottas is no different in that sense, knowing the psychological battles in F1 never just remain on track.
Speaking at the Mercedes car launch, the Finn admitted this winter, he’s taken a step back, with a plan to come back mentally happier in a bid to beat Hamilton this season.
“It’s important to switch off, and it’s important to disconnect. Many times when you step out from the sport for let’s say a couple of weeks, you start processing things, and you realise things when you see the big picture,” he said.
“An example was last year. There were races I couldn’t affect, but there were many races that I could’ve done a better job.
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“Still from my side, the big thing is consistency. Many times I perform at the level I want to, but then there’s times that for some reason I don’t, and I feel like I couldn’t get 100 per cent out of myself and the team around me.
“I think I’ve realised that a lot of that is the mental side of things.”
Bottas goes head-to-head with Hamilton once again this season, in his fifth for the championship-winning team Mercedes, however he has yet to beat the seven-time world champion to the title, a driver who has been alongside the Finn since he joined in 2017.
Bottas has won two races in Austria and Russia, but he struggled for any consistency alongside Hamilton, who picked up 11 wins in 17 races.
“Although Lewis has won the titles, [whilst we have been] team mates over the years I’ve been with the team, I’m going into the new year starting afresh with this edge,” he said.
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“Absolutely I believe I can fight for the title and that’s of course my goal for the season. That’s my target, but it’s a long way until that and we need to take it really step by step.
Bottas says he has learnt a lot from his time in Formula One already, especially over the last few seasons, working hard to perfect his driving style, and technique – whilst also getting a grasp on the Pirelli tyres in his bid to beat Hamilton.
But when asked about how he’s approaching the season, in which could be his final with the Mercedes outfit, the Finn said he’d had a lot to think about over the past few months.
He continued: “I think a lot of the work and focus this season is the mental side of things, and trying to be mentally at my best at the Grand Prix, and trying to find the right way of approaching every single Grand Prix weekend, to try and find more often the, let’s say, flow, state and in that way the consistency of there season.
“Some of my years in Formula One, definitely I put too much pressure on myself; there’s been times where I’ve taken too much pressure from the outside and there’s been also vice versa,” he said, “that there has not been maybe enough pressure from my side. It’s all about finding that balance and playing with that,” he continued.
“And the only thing to do to let the team know, in terms of how they’re pressuring you, is to discuss about things. Same for myself, I need to be honest with everything and try to find a good way and have a happy head for every single Grand Prix.
“But that’s the tricky part, that’s the same thing in every sport: there’s not been an athlete ever, who’s been completely 100% of their performance capacity in every single event they’ve done, but I have to get there more often.”
And when asked about how he’s been working on his mental health, the Finn opted to keep some things to himself.
He added: “It’s my private matter and I also don’t want to share all the techniques, etcetera. But as I said before it’s something I have had more focus on over the winter and will focus on more over the season.
“If I need help I will use more professional help. If not, then I use the mirror!” he replied.
Bottas is out of contract at the end of this season, with all to prove at Mercedes to keep his seat in the future.
It could also be his last chance to beat Hamilton on track, with the seven-time world champion opting for just a one-year deal too, and with the likes of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes junior driver and current Williams driver George Russell waiting in the wings, Bottas has a lot to contend with this year to snatch the title.