After taking a back-seat role at Mercedes for so long, Valtteri Bottas is relishing his position as Alfa Romeo leader.
The Finnish driver is in his second season with the Formula One team after being replaced by George Russell at Mercedes.
“In this team I feel like my role has been very different to what I’ve ever had in Formula One,” Bottas said on Tuesday as Alfa Romeo unveiled its sleek black-and-red C43 car for 2023. “A bit more involvement, a bit more information going through me in a way.”
That wasn't always the case at Mercedes, where Bottas often felt under pressure alongside F1 great Lewis Hamilton.
His time ended after five seasons in which he won a modest 10 races and was second best to Hamilton — who won 50 in the same period on his way to a record-equaling seven world titles.
Bottas had some high points.
He showed genuine pace in qualifying and competed strongly at times with Hamilton, but on race day it was evidently clear he was No. 2.
Now the 33-year-old Bottas is helping to bring the best out of 23-year-old teammate Zhou Guanyu, who is also in his second season with Alfa Romeo.
“I tried to give all my experience and technical knowledge I could from the past, and then that work continued throughout the whole of last year," Bottas said. “It’s a really open situation in the team and I love to know as much as I can, details for the new car, and the set-up direction we’ve gone.”
Bottas finished 10th last season.
He scored 38 points from the first six races, including a best finish of fifth place at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, where he almost overtook Russell on the last lap for fourth spot.
Rather than capitalizing on his season start, he endured a dismal run of 10 straight races without a point before finishing 10th in Mexico and ninth in Brazil near the end of the season and totaled 49 points.
“We need to achieve more, it’s simple as that. We need to aim for better, aim for higher. The whole team, myself included," he said. "How to get there, that’s the tricky bit."
But Bottas, who is celebrating a decade in F1 this year, is mentally ready.
“I had a good break, which is important, because we go pretty much full gas until the end of the year," the former Williams driver said. “The mental reset and physical reset is important, so I’m full of energy and keen to go.”
Preseason testing takes place in Bahrain from Feb. 23-25 and the season starts there on March 5.
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