Valtteri Bottas believes uncertainty over his future at Mercedes during the summer may have reduced his chances of beating teammate Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton wrapped up a sixth drivers’ championship courtesy of second place at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, while Bottas picked up his second victory in three races. Those results followed a run of 12 races without a win during the European season, when the focus on his future at the team was at its highest before he signed a one-year contract extension, and Bottas feels it had an impact on his performances.
“There was definitely uncertainty for 2020 at some point,” Bottas said. “Lots of rumors. I had no idea what was going to happen. I just had to wait. So, for sure, as an athlete, as a driver, it’s not an ideal situation. You can’t be completely with peace of mind and focus on the job and feel mentally free and in the right place. It’s tricky.
“When that continues year after year, every single year of your career, at some point it’s getting a pain in the ass, so it’s definitely nice to get the contract signed. It’s going to be the same story next year, but not too worried at this point because the pace is good. I enjoy the driving, I enjoy working with the team and hope they appreciate that as well.”
As the only driver who was in a position to stop Hamilton from winning the title over the past two rounds, Bottas said he has been more consistent through 2019 than in previous years, but can still pinpoint specific areas where his championship challenge faltered.
“Overall there were a few mistakes from my side [that] I should have been able to avoid,” he conceded. “There were a couple on race starts, at least some of them were mistakes – some were maybe unlucky moments, but they made me learn. Then a couple of qualifyings I messed up in Q3, definitely, which cost me starting position for the race, and compromised the race, and I lost points because of that.
“Otherwise, I don’t know – (bad) luck, whatever, has been pretty even for me and Lewis overall. He’s just been on a great level again this year, every single race, and I’ve not been able to be at my very, very best every single race – but much more often than ever before, so the direction is clear for me in terms of my development.
“It’s a good momentum now, and in terms of race pace, which has been my weakness in the years before, I’ve made huge gains by working really hard with the engineers [on] every single detail of my driving and setup. That’s getting better, and that gives me really confidence for next year. Unlike at the end of last year, now I really look forward to the year ahead, and I’m already excited to start the next season and start fresh. So that’s going to be good fun.”