Valtteri Bottas says his motivation during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was the chance to chase down George Russell at his former team Mercedes.
Russell rose to sixth with a strong start on the opening lap while Bottas was hampered by an incident involving Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo.
The competitive Alfa Romeo was able to climb into fifth place though, closing in on Russell late on but eventually crossing the line directly behind the driver who replaced him this season, at a track where the pair collided last year.
“It was good fun,” Bottas said. “To be honest when we went to the slicks I really could push like a qualifying lap every lap, so that made it pretty fun. Especially middle to the end of that stint we had really good performance, good pace.
“Only the last few laps, once I got closer to George, my rear right started to grain a bit once I was demanding a bit more traction and so on. Just couldn’t quite get him, but maybe next time.
“I tried not to think about it!” he added of last year’s crash. “But Mercedes and George, that was motivation throughout the race, to push every lap and hopefully get a chance towards the end. Didn’t quite get it. I lost like 10 seconds in the pit stop and without that for sure it could have been a bit different.”
The fifth place is the Finn’s third top-eight finish this season, and leaves him just four points behind former teammate Lewis Hamilton early on. However, he thought his day was likely to be over on the opening lap at Imola given the contact he had with Ricciardo.
“Initially I was worried because it was a decent hit, I could feel it. Luckily maybe I hit at the right angle. Suddenly there was Sainz coming from the right sideways and Ricciardo hit him, I had no time to react, just hit them. But actually I was surprised that I could still carry on pretty well and not lose too many positions in the end.”
While Russell has impressed since his move, Mercedes as a team has struggled for performance and Bottas says is enjoying life at Alfa Romeo where progress has been a bit smoother in 2022.
“I’m very happy to be in the place I am at the moment. We had better race pace in the end. I don’t know the reasons why they are struggling, I don’t know the reasons why, I don’t know the technical details. I focus on our things and improving our car, which we did this weekend and hopefully we can do in the next race too.”