Valtteri Bottas is adamant there are still plenty of positives to take from this season in what has been a difficult campaign for the Finn, amid doubts over his Mercedes future. George Russell’s exceptional cameo in place of Lewis Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix has put Bottas under the magnifying glass, amid calls for Toto Wolff to offer the 23-year-old a permanent seat with the German constructor.
Yet Bottas has now received the public backing of Wolff, who is willing to stand by the Finn for the 2021 season despite the impact of Russell.
The 31-year-old got off to a flier at the beginning of the campaign after securing a first-place finish in Austria.
Many felt this could be Bottas’ year but he would only finish top of the podium once more at the Russian Grand Prix as Hamilton took centre stage.
With three rounds to spare, Hamilton wrapped up his seventh world-title and fourth consecutive championship.
He managed to build up a 124-point lead over his team-mate Bottas but despite that, the Nordic driver remains upbeat about his chances next season when reflecting on his campaign and Hamilton’s superiority.
“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.”
Bottas remains adamant that the competitive spirit within the Mercedes camp helps him and Hamilton get the best from one another.
“It’s no secret that battling with Lewis for years and years, I know how much it takes out of me,” he added.
“When I, every single weekend, try to get 100 percent 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 percent 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.”
Mercedes chief Wolff has now declared his loyalty to Bottas and is prepared to wait before partnering Russell with Hamilton.
“He’s going to be in our car,” said the Austrian. “I’m hereby confirming it. We have a contract with Valtteri.
“He’s going to race next year. You need to kick me quite hard in a sensitive zone for me to ever lose my loyalty. And I am loyal to my two race drivers.
“In the same way, I’m loyal to our junior drivers. George did a phenomenal job last weekend. He deserves to be in a great car one day. He has a contract with Williams for another year.
“They have been very flexible and accommodating in having George, giving George to Mercedes this other weekend, and everything is going to go its way. But calmly, and in a structured way.”