August 11, 2022

Valtteri Bottas has revealed he plans to retire from Formula 1 after the 2018 season as he mentally struggles with being beaten by Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn joined Mercedes ahead of the 2017 season and won three races in his debut year but failed to win the following campaign, finishing the season fifth in the Drivers’ Championship and without a podium in the last four sleeves. Speaking to Motor Sport magazine’s ‘My Big Break’ podcast, Bottas said he decided to retire after falling in love with F1, and only reversed the decision – a decision only he had yet to communicate to Mercedes – two months before the 2019 season kicked off.

“At the end of 2018, I almost quit,” Bottas said. “It was so close. Just because I couldn’t understand and accept the fact that I couldn’t beat Lewis for those two years.

“I put so much pressure on myself. Towards the end of 2018, especially when I started playing a supporting role in the team, I really couldn’t take it – I really struggled. It wasn’t fun. The last four or five races of 2018 were more painful than… you should enjoy F1, that’s pretty cool, but that wasn’t it at all.

“I had a good break between the two seasons and really had to think. I decided to take a break somewhere in South America and just tried not to think about F1 at all and to try to find the will and the joy for the sport, and the motivation.

“I found it – it was like a click at one point. But it was after New Years, probably mid-January or something, I decided, ‘OK, let’s do this, I can still do it.’ So I managed to pull myself together and I rediscovered the pleasure of driving.

“Immediately the results were much better than 2018. In fact, I think the following year in 2019 was probably my best season so far, especially against Lewis – I won quite a few races and until halfway through the season I was sometimes even at the top of the championship, so it was a pretty solid year. But then just Lewis’ consistency and overall performance all season I couldn’t match.

Bottas confirms that it was not just about racing for Mercedes, but about retiring from Formula 1 altogether at that point.

“Yes absolutely. The human mind is strange in a way – sometimes you go to dark places and you lose the joy of things. I completely lost the joy of F1 and racing in F1. I I was almost mad at F1; It’s weird. I just needed some time off. Thinking about it as a whole and then I realized it’s a pretty cool sport and I I still had great opportunities ahead of me so I would be stupid not to take them.

“I was walking in a Finnish forest, in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I like to disappear, hike for an hour or two in the snow. I was just still, looking around and I could feel that adrenaline. I was like ‘Yeah let’s do this’ and then I won the first race!

That first race in Australia saw Bottas deliver a pointed radio message of “To whom it may concern: F**k you” after the race, but he says it was a blanket response to his critics.

“No, not anyone in particular. I got a lot of flak throughout the latter part of ’18; should I be a Mercedes driver? Is he the right guy for the team? It started to annoy me. So it was basically for people who were starting to push me down. I started using that as motivation for this race.

Bottas believes the comment was also partly aimed at himself for considering quitting, adding, “Those kind of times, I just want to tell people to always look at the bigger picture. If you’re feeling a little anxious about certain things, take a step back, there’s always so much more to achieve if you don’t give up.