Valtteri Bottas describes the past 12 months as “crazy,” having won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the end of an “incredible” first season with Mercedes.
A year ago, Bottas was already confirmed as a Williams driver alongside Lance Stroll before Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement saw the Finn called up to drive for Mercedes. After three victories and four pole positions in his first season with the team, Bottas says his win in Abu Dhabi caps a steep learning curve – but he believes he needs to find more consistency next year.
“It’s crazy to think that last year I was still here with Williams, knowing for a fact I was driving in 2017 with Williams and now I’m here and just won the race with Mercedes – it’s crazy but that’s how life is,” Bottas said. “For sure it has been an incredible season for me, how much I’ve learned from this team, how much I’ve learned from Lewis [Hamilton].
“I think I was able to find something from every single race, especially the tricky ones, but just because I’ve won this race at the end of the year I cannot say that I know how to win the title – I’ve never done it before.
“Next year I’ll take it race by race but for sure this weekend has given me a lot of confidence. I had good performance in qualifying and, for sure, today was very good. I’m really looking forward to next year, to see what it brings, but I’ll be working as hard as I can over the winter to try and have a strong one.”
Having secured an impressive pole position, Bottas drove a measured race at the front but came under pressure from Hamilton at times, and he admits he was aware the world champion would not hesitate to take victory if given the chance.
“Of course Lewis was close and I knew all he was going to need was a proper mistake from me. Of course he wanted to win so he would have taken the opportunity. I just needed to focus on my things, to get my stuff done so I went through the race corner by corner, lap by lap and there was no panic at any point.
“Of course I knew that he would need only one mistake, we both had one lock-up apiece but I guess this can happen, and it wasn’t a big one.”