A “very confident” and “more complete” Valtteri Bottas says he’s “going to go all out” for a first Formula 1 title in 2020 – admitting he’s got new additions to his “driving toolbox” in a bid to defeat Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas is entering his fourth season alongside Hamilton at Mercedes and so far has come up short in his fight against the sport’s six-time champion.
A title challenge may well be essential this year, with the likes of Sebastian Vettel and George Russell in the running for a Mercedes seat in 2021.
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But the Finn did enjoy the best year of his career in 2019 – finishing second in the Drivers’ Championship – and he told Sky Sports F1 he’s feeling better than ever ahead of the delayed 2020 season, which starts on July 5.
“I really feel that this extra time off, which was unexpected, was only good for me,” Bottas, who is out of contract at the end of the year, said on the Sky F1 Vodcast. “It’s a rare time for a driver that you get so much time off and get to do different things and to really focus on yourself, improving yourself physically and mentally.
“I’ve been able to drive a lot too, and some of the other drivers may have struggled to drive during the lockdown. I’ve been doing karting, rallying every week since we came back from Melbourne. So I feel good also driving wise.”
Last year, Bottas insisted he had a secret “plan” to beat Hamilton in 2020 – although dismissed comparisons to Mercdes predecessor Nico Rosberg, who also had three seasons as Hamilton’s team-mate before beating the Englishman to the title in his final year with the team.
Asked about what it would take to come out on top, Bottas insisted he had made steps everywhere – and has a few new driving tricks up his sleeve.
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“It’s obviously going to be pretty special season, because it’s going to be shorter than the planned amount of races,” he added. “So every mistake will cost you much more than previously.
“It’s all about the consistency and I feel we’ve been working on with the team and my core engineering team in terms of my driver style, I feel I have a couple of new things in my driving style toolbox that I could use.
“I could feel that in Barcelona testing, in a couple of corners I made a good steps and I’ve been focusing on that during the lockdown.
“I feel I’m more complete as a driver and also physically, I’m peaking now. Hopefully that can really translate. I’m very confident, mentally in a good place, and I’m going to go all out, no doubt.”
Can Bottas really beat Hamilton in 2020?
Sky F1’s Johnny Herbert: “I think he openly admits it himself – it’s consistency. We saw him come out very positively at the beginning of last season but then he just runs out of steam, and that’s when Lewis was just keeps on putting the pressure on.
“Valtteri has to have a next level of consistency to put Lewis under pressure, and at the moment that hasn’t happened. He did sound in a very positive light last week, because he’s worked so hard on his fitness and with that I think the mental side is coming strong at the same time.
“If he can get that first race win, it really gives him the confidence – then the pressure starts to get on Lewis a little bit more. Then of course they’re back the following at the weekend at the same track.
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