Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas Appreciates Not Feeling Like He’s Being ‘Eaten From Inside’

He was tired of feeling like he was being “eaten from inside.”

Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas raced away from all of the uncertainty. As Alfa Romeo’s new No. 1 driver, padded by a three-year contract, a sense of peace and relaxation has replaced the constant empty feeling of playing a distant second pilot at powerhouse Mercedes.

Bottas feels more fulfilled being away from Lewis Hamilton’s domineering presence.

It’s like he’s driving along an Australian beach.

Valtteri Bottas played trusted sidekick role for five seasons with Mercedes

During his five-year tenure with Mercedes, Bottas played the trusted sidekick. Seven-time F1 champion Hamilton earned a drivers’ title in their first four seasons, and the team claimed the constructors’ championship each year.

But there was that nagging, empty feeling of driving on a series of one-year deals. Was it an organizational ploy to leash Bottas from running astray? Well, it worked.

Bottas maintained job security by often blocking the field, protecting Hamilton’s position. He found success, earning 10 GP wins, but how many were surrendered in favor of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who was knighted by Prince Charles three days after placing second to Max Verstappen at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 12.

According to, Bottas had a constant feeling of pressure he couldn’t shake. Constantly being concerned with his future, Bottas said he was being “eaten from inside.” His worries rarely ceased.

Until now.

Mika Hakkinen: ‘Valtteri is a great team player and driver’ 

Ex-Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas takes his first ride with his new team, Alfa Romeo, during a Formula 1 test session at Yas Marina Circuit on Dec. 14, 2021, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

When it became clear last year Mercedes brass yearned to promote youngster George Russell to Mercedes’ No. 2 seat, Alfa Romeo stepped up with what Bottas wanted the most: 

Security and trust. 

Speaking during a SuomilF1 press conference, two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen sensed a difference in Bottas since leaving Mercedes. 

“Valtteri is a great team player and driver,” said Hakkinen, who will partner with Bottas for the Race of Champions on Feb. 5-6.

But there is one thing Bottas will have to come to terms with next season, Hakkinen said. He will not be driving a Mercedes machine next season. 

“He will drive for a great team,” Hakkinen said. “But he won’t be fighting for the same kind of positions compared to his Mercedes days.” 

Bottas likely will find himself fighting for P10 more often than P1 during his early days with Alfa Romeo. At 32 years old, Bottas was ready to settle down. He has been vocal in his desire to become a team leader to rookie Guanyu Zhou, China’s first F1 driver

Mercedes earned 600.5 more team points than Alfa Romeo last season 

In 178 career GPs, Bottas has compiled 67 podium finishes.

Last season, Alfa Romeo placed ninth in the team standings, compiling just 13 points. Mercedes earned 600.5 more points.

As the franchise’s new leader, Bottas will get three years to prove he can raise the organization from the third grid to the second and, possibly, challenge for the first.

“The teams’ resources are not comparable, but now he can prepare for the long term,” Hakkinen said. “With Mercedes’ one-year contracts, there was always light at the end of the tunnel, but there was always a locked door waiting.”

Now it’s Russell’s job to be behind the door.

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