Valtteri Bottas says he has been more relaxed after having his future confirmed and says this helped him produce a “very sweet” victory in the Turkish Grand Prix.
Mercedes had the quickest car throughout the weekend in Istanbul but Lewis Hamilton took a power unit penalty so it was Bottas who inherited pole position while his teammate started 11th. Bottas duly did what was required for Mercedes by winning comfortably from Max Verstappen in wet conditions — adding the fastest lap to boot — and the Finn believes it was one of his finest wins.
“It feels very sweet, actually,” Bottas said after his first win since Russia last year. “I think, overall, it was one of my best races, in terms of how it went from beginning to the end. To some people it may have looked easy but it was far from that. It’s quite easy to make mistakes in these conditions and when it’s drying there’s just one dry line.
“It went smoothly and I’m very glad. The car really has been good in any conditions this weekend and that makes things easier. I could really control it. The key today was tire management — not to kill the tires in the beginning of the stint, trying to play the long game.
“I would say in the beginning of the race, in the first few laps, (Max) was definitively trying to keep up and put pressure, but I think he also realized he had to manage the tires. If I’m honest, at the end of the race, in the second stint, I was surprised by pace difference. I could really focus on my own thing, just always, always, looking ahead and focusing on my thing, trying to avoid mistakes.
“I’ve had the confidence, always, really, but it’s nice to have a win as a reminder you can win races. It’s been a while, like I said, but after Monza I’ve been feeling pretty relaxed, in any case, being able to focus only on the driving, so for sure that helps.”
While there was a lot of focus on Mercedes’ decision to pit Hamilton late on when the defending champion wanted to try and complete the race without a pit stop, Bottas says such a strategy never seemed realistic in his view.
“At least from my side, I didn’t consider going through the whole race on one set, because at some point I started to feel a bit of vibration from the tires — they were like slicks and eventually they would get to the canvas. I was having in my mind we would be stopping at some point. I don’t know about the team yet, about what they were thinking about, but I’m glad we stopped. Obviously, Max stopped first and we just covered him.”