Valtteri Bottas has raced for the last five years for Mercedes. Despite 10 wins and 20 pole positions during that period, the Finn was always overshadowed by Lewis Hamilton’s greatness within the team. With no scope to go beyond his role as co-driver and gain more space within the team, Bottas felt the need to breathe fresh air in 2022.
At the same time, Alfa Romeo was looking for an experienced driver who could lead the construction of the team and become a local reference. The marriage between the two sides was natural, as Fredric Vasseur, head of the Italian-Swiss team, who was also Bottas’ head in the junior categories, says: “I was looking for someone like that, he was looking for this role. Everything went okay.”
In an interview with The Race, Bottas spoke about the feeling of being the leader of the team and his voice sounds like a good memory: “It’s been great to have authority over things. If I ask something happens,” he said. “I feel like I’m not just driving. I am a little more than that. I am not only a driver, but also an important member of the team.
Even in his Mercedes days, Bottas was always thought of as a team player. Hamilton himself praised this quality of Finn, going so far as to say that he was the best teammate he had in his entire life. But competing for a place with the seven-time champion is not an easy task. The voice of a pilot with such a curriculum ends up being heard more. Bottas himself admits: “It was very difficult in the past [na Mercedes] step forward. Lewis is a very dominant person in the team, in a way. “It was clear that I could not have the same role that I have here. [na Alfa Romeo].”
With his extensive experience in the top teams and mentoring the rookie driver (Guanyu Zhou), Bottas gives his opinion on the most diverse topics within Alfa Romeo: from test program recommendations to car configuration, through development guidance. aerodynamics and mechanics. Even the terminology used by the team is given a Finnish note. “You can talk about everything. That makes a difference,” says the pilot.
The results have been positive so far. In the three races already held in 2022, Bottas reached Q3 in two of them and also scored twice. And it could have been third, if not for the accident in Saudi Arabia GP, when it was in the top seven.
Of course, a good performance helps the spirit of the team, as Bottas explains: “There is a very good and encouraging feeling in the team, everyone is working hard. That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do, and of course the results, like the points from the first race, help. You can see how inspiring it was to people.”
Alfa Romeo intends to reach the next stage, the Emilia-Romagna GP, with new features on the car. The team’s expectation is that performance can improve further throughout the year, especially when the main problem of the C42 is solved: “When we manage to solve the reliability issues, I see no reason not to fight for points and sometimes, up to. good points in every race,” says Bottas.
At Alfa Romeo, Valtteri Bottas found what he was looking for. He became an internal reference, his voice gained weight and he took the role of team leader. How does that affect your thinking? Let’s stick to his own words: “I feel less joy in life in general”.