Overthinking and unnatural driving were the two major reasons Valtteri Bottas’s first season with Mercedes did not go so well, says the Finnish driver.
While Lewis Hamilton improved his form after the summer break and won four out of five races, Bottas started slipping. The Finn struggled hard to keep up with his British teammate and admitted the lack of performance was mentally draining him.
But as the season concluded, the Finn bounced back from his downward spiral. He grabbed the pole position in Brazil and later won the final race at Abu Dhabi.
Bottas said: “After struggling quite a lot for a couple of races, it wasn’t easy mentally because I was quite confused in the beginning – like ‘what’s going on?’,”
“For sure you also start to doubt what you’re doing. Then also when you need to change some things with your driving style and need to adapt to many different things suddenly you realise it’s not that simple.
“Then you easily overthink things and then it becomes less natural driving. But it’s going to a much better direction. If there’s going to be similar struggles [in 2018] I’m prepared for that.
“And I’ve learnt massively from those difficult races so I think I’m a lot better driver as well than for example in Spa or Malaysia or Japan.”
F1 made substantial changes to the Aerodynamic regulations for the 2017 season. But Mercedes continued to maintain its consistency with the car that Hamilton has been racing from the last four seasons, Bottas added.
After switching from Williams at a short notice, Bottas realized his lack of experience in a Mercedes car when he hit the first set of difficulties.
“What he’s been doing better than me, I think it comes mainly from experience,” said Bottas, who underlined that there are “definite differences” between their driving styles.
“I think ultimately mechanically the car hasn’t really changed much from the last few years, in terms of how it behaves, and it was very different how the Williams car behaved.
“So there’s been many things for me to learn, and I’ve been kind of catching up on things all the time.”
Since he gained more experience with Mercedes machine now, Bottas is sure he will be “a much more complete, much quicker driver on average” in 2018 than in ’17.
The Finn attributed Hamilton’s success to his knowledge of the car (and the team), his natural pace and his work ethic.
“I always knew that he’s really talented for sure, and he’s quick in any circumstances always – he just goes in the car and he’s very quick,” said Bottas of Hamilton.
“But that also comes from hard work, he works hard with the team.”