The former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas has revealed that he almost quit Formula 1, after just two years of racing with Lewis Hamilton.
The Finn joined Mercedes in 2017 to replace the outgoing 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, where he was promoted from the Williams team.
Bottas endured a promising first season with Mercedes, achieving three race wins to confirm third place in the drivers standings.
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However, he struggled in the 2018 season by managing no race wins and also witnessed his team-mate Lewis Hamilton pip Sebastian Vettel to the World Championship.
Bottas revealed how he felt at that time and how close he was to packing up from Formula 1 altogether.
He told the Motorsport magazine podcast: “At the end of 2018, I almost stopped, it was so close. Just because of the fact that I couldn’t understand and take the fact that I couldn’t beat Lewis in those two years.
“I put so much pressure on myself. Towards the end of ’18, especially when I started to have the support role in the team, I really couldn’t take it, I really struggled. It was not fun.
“The last four or five races of ’18 were more painful because you should enjoy F1 and it is pretty cool, but it wasn’t that at all. So I had a good break between the two seasons and really had to think things through.”
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Bottas was also a scapegoat for the media at the time for his lack of success at Mercedes, which he believes had a huge impact on his mental state.
“The human mind is strange in a way that sometimes you go into dark places. You lose the joy in things, and I just completely lost the joy of F1 and racing in F1. I was almost angry at F1.
“It’s weird, but I just needed some time off, and think of the big picture and then I realised that ‘okay, it’s actually a pretty cool sport and I still have great opportunities ahead of me’. So I would be silly not to take them.
“I decided to go on a break in South America somewhere and just try not to think about F1 at all, and just try to find the will and the joy for the sport and the motivation.”
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Now racing with Alpha Romeo alongside rookie Zhou Guanyu, he is now seen as the lead driver and is relishing the opportunity to show his worth to the sport and his new team.
It is clear now that the deciding factor as to why Bottas didn’t achieve what he had planned, is down to the sheer presence and dominance of Hamilton.
Bottas explained: “Lewis had been part of [Mercedes] for a long time.
“As a driver and as a person in the team, he’s the dominant person. So it’s quite difficult to step up, and I never could really step up in a way that I wanted alongside Lewis because the team was so welded in, and… he’s Lewis. So it’s like, everyone looks up to him almost. So that’s how it goes.
“I think I was quite hard on myself because it didn’t happen. I was like ‘oh, okay, I’ll try next year, even harder’. Didn’t happen. So it was really not easy to accept the situation that it’s not that easy to beat Lewis when he’s at his peak performance.
“Now, when I look back at it, [it was a] great school for me, in a way that I learned a lot about myself sometimes to give me a bit more leash and, in a way, not to be too hard on myself on some things. I’m really, really glad it happened.”
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