Bottas says there are many positives to take from 2020 – but admits battling Hamilton ‘takes it out of me’
On paper, Valtteri Bottas’ 2020 was merely the fourth consecutive season in which he’s been beaten to the title by Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton. But the Finn said that there had been much to celebrate from this season, as well as plenty of learnings to take into 2021.
The season started, as did 2019, with an emphatic Bottas victory in the first race in Austria, encouraging talk once again that this could really be Bottas’ year. But he would only reach the top step one more time, at the Russian Grand Prix, as Hamilton wrapped up his seventh title – and fourth consecutive championship – with three rounds to spare, ultimately going on to win 11 times.
But despite that, and Hamilton’s eventual 124-point margin over his team mate in the drivers’ standings – nearly five full race victories’ worth – Bottas was looking to focus on the positives, after beating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to second place in the drivers’ standings by nine points, and having taken five pole positions – his joint-highest haul from a season.
“If I look back at this year, there’s been many positives I can take,” said Bottas. “I’ve been able to improve on many areas. For sure not still enough to win the title, but I’ll keep pushing. There were some unlucky races where I lost some points, but there were also some races that Lewis was better than me, and that’s in the end how he made the difference.
“It was sometimes about very fine margins, whether that was about qualifying or how the race ended up in terms of what kind of strategy I was pushing for, or he was pushing for, and how things ended up. But in this sport – the points difference can look pretty big now, I know, but in the end it comes down to fine margins and I’ve been unable to be consistently at such a top level as Lewis has been this year, so I think that’s made a difference.
“It’s not a lot but I think it’s enough to win, and that’s something I’ll really keep pushing on for the future, because I really feel I’m getting better each year, and that gives me hope and motivation and the will to push more to try and keep growing, now and especially for the future.”
Despite Bottas’ positivity, the Finn admitted that suffering a fourth straight defeat to Hamilton had been hard to take – conceding that it had perhaps led to his head dropping a touch after Hamilton had wrapped up the title in Istanbul – while he also opened up on the toll of competing against one of the sport’s all-time greats in the same car.
“It’s no secret that battling with Lewis for years and years, I know how much it takes out of me,” he said, “when I, every single weekend, try to get 100% out of me and keep pushing. Sometimes I get close, sometimes I manage to beat him. But having a fourth year in a row defeat in terms of the championship title is tough to accept.
“So for sure it has an effect, and when you know the title is lost, it’s not quite the same, even though you should always keep 100% which is what I try. But everyone knows how sensitive mentally this sport is. So I think from this year, there’s lots to learn, that hopefully I can use for the future.”