Having been left out by Mercedes in favour of a younger George Russell ahead of the 2022 Formula 1 season, former Silver Arrows driver Valtteri Bottas is keen to make a mark at Alfa Romeo this season.
The Finn was forced to leave Mercedes after being fielded in its line-up for the past 5 years.
Bottas started off his campaign in great fashion, finishing 5th in Bahrain. He was forced to retire in Saudi Arabia.
However, the 32-year-old is enjoying every minute of his new role.
Unlike how it worked at Mercedes, where he was distinctly playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton, Bottas now has a role of great significance at Alfa Romeo.
He is seen as an experienced driver who can play a pivotal role in grooming newcomer Guanyu Zhou. The years he has spent in the sport are also handy when it comes to offering engineers valuable feedback with respect to the car.
Given how good Alfa Romeo has been in the early part of the season, Bottas believes they have what it takes to beat Mercedes.
“We have what it takes to take on Mercedes and become the third power behind Red Bull Racing and Ferrari,” Bottas said.
“That has to be our goal now.”
Bottas has out-qualified both Russell and Hamilton
There would have been no sweeter feeling for a driver constantly living in the shadows of Hamilton at Mercedes when he managed to out-qualify his replacement George Russell in Bahrain, before bettering Hamilton in Saudi Arabia.
Alfa Romeo chief engineer Xevi Pujolar has been left hugely impressed with Bottas’ feedback.
“It’s not just his speed,” he told Speedweek.com. “It’s mainly his attitude. He radiates so much positivity that the whole team gets involved.”
Bottas admitted that it was strange to see Mercedes struggling the way it has this season.
“It’s weird to see,” he said.
“I would guess he had some kind of issue, I don’t know.
“It is surprising to see them struggling, but it’s also nice to be able to battle with them. I think this was kind of the best-case-scenario for our first season together that I could ever imagine, with the information I had.”
Bottas keen to get over minor Jeddah blip
Bottas spoke about his retirement in Jeddah, saying that he was hopeful it was just a minor blip.
“It’s a pity to retire from what had been a really good race until that moment, especially as we were looking good for P6 at least,” he said.
“The engine temperatures kept rising. We need to investigate what caused that, but we had to pull the car out as we didn’t want to lose the engine.
“It’s how racing goes. We now need to make sure we solve whatever issue it was and move on.
“Looking at the positives, the car is really good. We made another step forward from the previous race, even in the starts.
“We were doing a good job and enjoying some close battles. Now let’s make sure we get back to scoring in Australia.”