Valtteri Bottas might be the king of understatement.
“This season definitely wasn’t easy,” he says, as we discuss what has been a triumphant year in general for Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport but a challenging one for the partner of now five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
In spite of this, Bottas was determined not to let his head drop and to continue to do his best for the team, playing a vital role in helping Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport clinch yet another constructors’ championship.
“Valtteri, even with his bad luck, never did allow the spirit and the mindset to drop within the organisation,” explained team principal and CEO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Toto Wolff.
“He was always capable to maintain us in high spirits. You see drivers when they lose the ability to win the championship, the whole thing goes down the drain and it becomes negative, and they become dysfunctional. Valtteri, until the very end, kept us in a positive place. He didn’t feel negative within the group, but kept the energy levels high. This is why he contributed to both these world championship titles.”
It‘s clear that Bottas has already taken the next mental step and is ready to focus on next year. “I’m looking forward to next season,” he agrees. “We’re starting from zero again. There are always opportunities for me to learn more, to develop myself as a driver, and be ready for 2019.”
Many of these opportunities can be found at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport HQ in Brackley, UK, where Bottas spends time honing his focus for next year whenever his punishing schedule allows. The off-season offers a chance to visit the factory, where, as Bottas points out, there are many “hidden heroes”, each offering a driver with the potential to be a future world champion and valuable information in the preparation stages before
next season begins.
“This sport is developing all the time,” Bottas explains. “We’re always finding gains in how we use different parts, how they are designed and made – I find seeing how we are progressing on that really interesting.”
Bottas must come back from such a punishing season raring to fight again in 2019 – and in his mind, that means taking time to improve his mental and physical endurance and tuning his intense focus: “The main thing is keeping the focus, from the first race to the last.”
Methods for obtaining the right mindset take many forms – from time in the Brackley simulator honing his racecraft to taking time for himself, blocking out the external white noise and calmly strengthening his inner determination. But there’s one thing that motivates Bottas more than anything on his visits to Brackley, and that’s taking some quiet time to personally read and answer his fan mail. “Supportive fan letters are very motivating for me, that’s one of the things that can make my day – and it’s nice to know that I can make theirs in return.”
Here’s hoping one of the most determined drivers on the grid will be able to return to the top step of the podium in 2019.