It must be a refreshingly new feeling that Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas is experiencing right now. For the first time in nine seasons, he is finally the one that calls the shot in the team.
Most recently, Bottas had spent five years largely overshadowed both by Mercedes driver Lewis hamilton’s achievements on the track as well as his presence off it.
Now, alongside rookie Guanyu Zhou, Bottas is very much the focal point at Alfa Romeo.
There has been a noticeable difference in his attitude since his spell at Mercedes, where he often seemed like a lone wolf.
“I really feel a big part of the team,” Bottas told The Race.
“And it’s been really nice to have proper authority on things.
“If I ask for something it happens, and everyone really listens. And I’ve been able to motivate some people.
“It’s just a really motivated and good feeling in the team now, everyone is really trying hard. That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do but of course, the results, like at first race, scoring those points, you could see how uplifting it was for people, and that helps.
“I’m really happy how things are going with the team and my role.
“I feel like I’m not just driving the car. I feel like I am a bit more than that.
“I’m not just a driver, but also an important team member.”
Bottas is a natural leader
Bottas understands that his role at Mercedes was appreciated by those around him, but insisted that it was time to come out of Hamilton’s shadow and make his own mark.
“It was always quite difficult in the past to really step up. And I think Lewis also in a team is quite a dominating person in a way.
“It was pretty clear that I couldn’t have the same role there as what I have here.”
Being a natural mentor to Zhou, Bottas has realised that it is something that has brought out the best in him.
“I want us to be a really strong pair of teammates.
“So that’s why I want to help him because I want both of us to score points.”
Bottas discusses getting the better of Mercedes
Alfa Romeo has made a great start to the season and has outqualified Mercedes in two out of three Grand Prixs so far.
It all feels a little surreal to Bottas.
“I definitely hoped that it would be a step from previous years. But actually, it’s a decent step,” he said.
“And, you know, being pretty much able to fight with Mercedes, that’s maybe beyond what I could think of!
“But, yeah, absolutely. Now, as soon as we can hopefully fix the reliability issues, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to fight for points and sometimes even good points in every single race.”
The Finnish driver is glad that he has had such a positive start at Alfa Romeo, but doesn’t believe that he needed to do it to justify his decision of joining the team to others.
“I would say the strongest feeling like that was after the qualifying in Bahrain, because then everyone is turned up and then you see in reality where you are,” Bottas said.
“That was cool. But even like all the work done at the factory, and with the team before we even drove the car, I was comfortable that this is the right thing for me.
“Because overall…I don’t know. I just feel a bit happier in life overall.”