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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Australian break helped Bottas process ‘disappointment’ of 2023

Valtteri Bottas once again spent time cycling in Australia during the European winter. Image: Valtteri Bottas Instagram
Valtteri Bottas once again spent time cycling in Australia during the European winter. Image: Valtteri Bottas Instagram

Sauber finished ninth in the constructors’ championship while Bottas was only 15th in the drivers’ competition.

The Finn amassed just 10 points from 22 races in what his worst return since his debut F1 season in 2013.

With Audi slowly becoming more involved in the Sauber operation hopes were high that the Swiss squad would improve on 10th in the championship in 2022.

As a result, Bottas was left less than fulfilled by his 11th season in F1.

“Mentally, I feel fresh,” the 34-year-old began.

“I feel like I’ve been able to process last year because, in the end for me, it was a disappointment as a result.

“In the end, I was expecting more.

“But now I feel like I’m 100 percent over that and I’m motivated and fresh for the new season to try and make a rally strong year and showcase what I can do.”

Bottas spent time in Adelaide, as has become his tradition during the F1 off-season.

That saw him involved in the organisation of the RADL GRAVL cycling race, held in conjunction with the Tour Down Under.

“I was quite a bit in Australia, which I really enjoy for the off-season,” he explained.

“Good training, or good fun, some new places.

“But otherwise, the routine has been the same because, once I got back to Europe, then you start with the team, with the simulator, and with all the meetings and everyone.”

Bottas is entering his third year with Sauber, the 10-time race winner revealing it is the last of his current contract.

Following his time alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes, he joined Sauber on a ‘multi-year’ deal, the duration of which was never publicised.

It was widely accepted to be a two-plus-one arrangement, with 2024 the final year, but others had suggested a three-plus-one running to the end of next season.

With a view towards Audi‘s formal arrival in 2026, Bottas remains motivated to impress despite the squad’s 2023 slump.

“You have to be. It’s my job, even in the harder times,” he said when asked if he was still motivated to perform.

“Especially when it’s a new season and based on what I’ve seen throughout the winter in terms of progress and all the new things, I am motivated.

“I really want to have a strong season,” he added.

“Also, when you are going into a contract year, let’s say, you also want to be able to show what you can do.”

While cars are yet to hit the track to establish a pecking order, Bottas hopes Sauber will find itself battling in the midfield, rather than at the back as it was in 2023.

Progress is important, he reasons, given Audi’s desire to be immediately competitive when its name does go above the door.

Audi has been gradually increasing its stock in Sauber and will eventually hold a 75 percent share.

However, given the Alfa Romeo branding in recent years, it has kept its name out of the spotlight thus far.

“It would be more like teams like Alpine; we don’t want to be fighting towards the back,” he observed.

“I think that needs to be the target if we want to make progress and if the team wants to get where they want to be.

“I think cooperation will start somehow quite soon,” he added of Audi’s hands-on involvement in the operation.

“If Audi wants to be competitive in their first year, Sauber and Audi will need to work together.

“That’s all going on kind of behind the scenes.

“As a driver, it’s not whatever meetings and stuff is happening behind; we are not always aware of those things, but things are starting to pick up now thanks to the team being unleashed.”

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