Valtteri Bottas says he is using the enforced break in racing in a positive way because he felt he was on the edge of exhaustion and risked falling out of love with Formula 1.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the first 10 rounds of the 2020 season being either postponed or cancelled, with the current first race targeted in Austria in early July. Currently spending the shutdown in Finland, Bottas says having a prolonged spell away from the pressures of racing can help him recharge, admitting there are times in the past that he struggled with the relentless nature of the sport.
“It is quite an intense season when it starts — it nearly started this year but it didn’t! — so it’s quite special that we have this ‘extra time off’ that we actually get to be in one place for such a long time,” Bottas said. “Less traveling, less stress in general. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing if you can really use that.
“Usually, the season is very demanding. Especially when you’re putting pressure on yourself. On top of that, if you add all the outside pressure, there is high risk of burning (out) in this sport for every driver, for sure. For team members, anyone involved with a rhythm when the season starts, how it goes, there’s a high risk.
“You just really need to listen to yourself and when you have the chance, you need to be a bit selfish sometimes and do the things that you want to do, and find a way to have the time off when you think you really need it. Because otherwise, if your life is 24-7 all year round — year after year — all about F1, it’s not going to be good news.
“I’ve been there. I’ve been kind of too focused, having less things other than F1 in my life, being on the edge of really being too exhausted and starting to lose the motivation and the love for the sport. But I’ve learned from those kind of things and now I have the courage to take my time off and do the other things because I know it will only be good for me.”
Bottas admits there are downsides to being a grand prix driver that he didn’t envisage while trying to reach F1, but believes the current break might even work for him in terms of prolonging his career in the sport.
“For sure, it needs sacrifices. The amount of work to get there, it’s difficult to explain. And, yes, especially for me being a Finn, liking our own space, sometimes it would be nice to be unknown. When people start to recognize your face, sometimes you just want to be unknown and disappear, like a ghost; but you get used to it.
“In anything you do, especially when it’s in quite popular sports, there’s always a downside, but you have to deal with it. And keep in mind that you’re so lucky to be able to do the thing that you really loved and dreamed of as a kid.
“I still have a lot of years in F1. I still feel I’m reaching my peak in terms of performance. Maybe it will come that it’s enough. I don’t know. Maybe this extra period at home will give me a few more extra years. Who knows? Because it’s pretty special. It (retirement) will come one day, but it’s not yet near.”