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Images from the 2019 Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix


Apr 292019

Valtteri Bottas version two is certainly proving to be a substantial upgrade on last year's Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport driver. The Finnish ace currently leads the Formula One drivers' championship from his Silver Arrows teammate, and defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton, by a single point.

Valtteri has two wins to his name after his success in Baku, where he finished ahead of Lewis to make it a record one-two finish for the team in the opening four races of the season.

If you are unfamiliar with his story, Valtteri endured a torrid time in 2018. At the Azerbaijan GP last year, he suffered a puncture just a few laps from the end while he was leading the race. The 29-year-old eventually finished the season without a win and his confidence shot to pieces.

He spent the winter doing some much-needed soul searching, and returned this year making bold promises about his comeback. And so far, he is delivering.

So what has changed?

Apart from sporting a new beard, Valtteri is oozing in confidence like never before. Now in his third season with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team, he has grown into his role within and there is now a sense that he is comfortable having previously been drafted in to fill the void left by departing world champion, Nico Rosberg in 2016.

Valtteri is benefitting from a stable management structure in the team. Even though he has a new race engineer in Riccardo Musconi, he looked up the switch as a reset, as Tony Ross was moved across to the Silver Arrows' Formula E programme. He is also now believing in himself again, crucial for his self-esteem and driving ability.

A great example came in Baku when he and Lewis dived into Turn One and Valtteri, on the racing line, was able to trust himself to brake later than Lewis and stay ahead. That confidence has allowed him to become even more calmer. Already one to rarely show emotions, Valtteri has been able to cope with the threat from his teammate.


Just look at his pole positions in China and Azerbaijan when Lewis has turned the heat up.There is a real feeling now that he will offer the sternest test to Lewis' own title hopes as the Mercedes team opened up a 74 point championship lead over Ferrari.


After the race in Baku, Valtteri said: "It obviously means a lot to be leading the championship. It's incredible as a team on the level we are performing now. I'm so proud to be part of that. We're all performing really, really well. For me as well, it's only my fifth win, so of course it feels good and it carries on well. Confidence is good. I'm happy to just carry on. Obviously, it's been a good start personally for me for the season, it's a long season ahead. I do realise that.


"But something I'm really proud of is the level at which the team is performing. It's, for me, incredible. We need to be really, really proud of that -- but not think about it too much. Just keep doing what we're doing and the list of things that we can do better as a team is still long. So we need to focus on that. So let's keep going."


And there is no reason why he cannot with the Spanish GP up next, a race he finished second in 2018, and will be looking to go one better this time around.