With a ‘happy head,’ Valtteri Bottas enters F1 season with a new mindset at Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas Hamilton Mercedes
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

PARIS — After finishing even further behind his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton last season, Valtteri Bottas took stock.

If he ever wants to really challenge for the Formula One championship, he realized, he needs a stronger mindset.

“I’ve realized that a lot of that is the mental side of things,” Bottas said. “I’m trying to be mentally at my best, trying to find the right way of approaching every single Grand Prix weekend, (finding) more of the `flow’ state.”

When Nico Rosberg wrestled the F1 title from his then-teammate Hamilton after an intense battle in 2016, he put much of his success down to mental strength. Bottas has not mounted a serious challenge in the same way.

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Bottas started the past two seasons brightly with victories, only for his challenges to quickly fade as Hamilton imposed his superiority. Frustration got the better of Bottas and chipped away at his composure on race days, leading to some sloppy mistakes.

“I need to be self-honest with everything and try to find a good way and (have a) kind of `happy head’ for every single Grand Prix. That’s the tricky part,” he said. “There’s never been an athlete who’s been completely 100% of their performance capacity in every single event they’ve done. But how to get there more often? That’s the question.”

Hamilton found the answer many years ago and has been on a roll ever since.

After his first F1 title with Mercedes in 2014 – his second overall – Hamilton has won the championship every season except for 2016, when Rosberg beat him in a tense campaign that strained a friendship that went back to their teenage karting days.

After losing the 2015 campaign with three races to go, Rosberg hit back by winning the last three and the first four the next season to show he meant business. At the end of 2016, the German driver put together a run of four wins in five races to withstand Hamilton’s superb comeback, taking an intense season to a final-day decider where he held firm under the Abu Dhabi floodlights.

Bottas has never been able to match Hamilton’s consistency.

Sometimes, “I perform on the level that I want to, but then there are times that for some reason I don’t, and I feel like I (can’t) get 100% out of myself,” the 31-year-old Finn said. “I put too much pressure on myself. There (have) been times that I’ve taken too much pressure from outside.”

When he won the Australian GP in 2019 and the Russian GP last September, Bottas marked the victories with the same angry message over his radio, aiming an expletive at his critics.

But by reacting that way he also showed everyone – including the ice-cool Hamilton – that criticism gnawed away at him.

And he soon gave those critics more fodder. Because after his victory in Sochi, he did not win any of the next seven races. Instead, his form deteriorated with three podiums, two eighth places, a 14th place and a retirement.

He finished 124 points behind Hamilton – considerably worse than in 2019 when he was 87 off the pace – despite there being four fewer races last season.

“I don’t want to leave any `What ifs’ after this year,” Bottas said. “What would be more disappointing is if I look back and realize things that I could have done better, or I should have put more effort.”

Bottas did show more flashes of speed than his Mercedes teammate in preseason testing at Bahrain, leading the second day.

Hamilton is chasing a record eighth title to move ahead of Michael Schumacher and stand alone among F1 greats. Hamilton has won 95 races and 98 pole positions – both F1 records – while Bottas has nine wins and 16 poles.

In what could be his final season with Mercedes, Bottas intends to end Hamilton’s dominance.

“Going into this new year starting from fresh and with a new page, absolutely I believe that I can fight for the title,” Bottas said.

He may never get a better chance.

IndyCar results, points after Detroit Grand Prix


DETROIT — Alex Palou topped the results of an NTT IndyCar Series race for the second time this season, extending his championship points lead with his victory in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who also won the GMR Grand Prix (and the Indy 500 pole position) last month, holds a 51-point lead over teammate Marcus Ericsson (ninth at Detroit) through seven of 17 races this season.

Ganassi, which placed all four of its drivers in the top 10 at Detroit, has three of the top four in the championship standings with Scott Dixon ranked fourth after a fourth at Detroit.

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Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is third in the standings after taking a 10th at Detroit. Pato O’Ward slipped to fifth in the points after crashing and finishing 26th

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:


Click here for the official box score from the 100-lap race on a nine-turn, 1.645-mile street course in downtown Detroit.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 100, Running
2. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. (9) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 100, Running
5. (13) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 100, Running
6. (12) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 100, Running
7. (2) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 100, Running
8. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 100, Running
9. (6) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 100, Running
10. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. (24) Colton Herta, Honda, 100, Running
12. (17) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 100, Running
13. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 100, Running
14. (20) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 100, Running
15. (15) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 100, Running
16. (18) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 100, Running
17. (25) Jack Harvey, Honda, 100, Running
18. (14) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 100, Running
19. (23) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 100, Running
20. (19) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 97, Running
21. (22) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 97, Running
22. (26) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 97, Running
23. (21) David Malukas, Honda, 85, Contact
24. (3) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 80, Contact
25. (27) Graham Rahal, Honda, 50, Contact
26. (10) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 41, Contact
27. (16) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 80.922 mph; Time of Race: 02:01:58.1171; Margin of victory: 1.1843 seconds; Cautions: 7 for 32 laps; Lead changes: 10 among seven drivers. Lap Leaders: Palou 1-28; Power 29-33; O’Ward 34; Palou 35-55; Power 56-64; Palou 65; Rossi 66; Newgarden 67-68; Kirkwood 69; Ericsson 70-76; Palou 77-100.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 273, Ericsson 222, Newgarden 203, Dixon 194, O’Ward 191, Rossi 176, McLaughlin 175, Power 172, Herta 149, Rosenqvist 148.

Rest of the standings: Grosjean 145, Kirkwood 142, Lundgaard 136, Ilott 116, VeeKay 108, Ferrucci 105, Armstrong 101, Rahal 99, Malukas 91, Daly 88, DeFrancesco 81, Castroneves 80, Harvey 78, Canapino 77, Pagenaud 72, Pedersen 61, Robb 55, Takuma Sato 37, Ed Carpenter 27, Ryan Hunter-Reay 20, Tony Kanaan 18, Marco Andretti 13, RC Enerson 5, Katherine Legge 5.

Next race: IndyCar will head to Road America for the Sonsio Grand Prix, which will take place June 18 with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.