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Bottas returns with strength in “the best race” of his life

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Bottas returns with strength in "the best race" of his life
Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas holds the trophy before the eyes of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton after winning the F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne, Australia, on March 17, 2019.

Valtteri Bottas savored on Sunday what he described as the best race in his history and achieved an unquestionable victory for Mercedes at the start of the season at the Australian Grand Prix, leaving behind the doubts that haunted the rider during the previous season.

The 29-year-old Finn failed to achieve a single victory last season and finished fifth in the championship while team-mate Lewis Hamilton took eleven victories in his fifth title.

With young French driver Esteban Ocon waiting as Mercedes reserve driver, Bottas began the pre-season in low form, harassed by doubts and speculations about his continuity in the team.

 


During the competition break, it was said that the driver spent time at home getting drunk with friends, growing a beard, driving a rally car and encouraging a new love of photography.

But the pilot who returned to Melbourne felt at peace enough to declare that he was ready to beat any rival.

After qualifying second on the starting grid, he kept his word at Albert Park on Sunday and managed to overtake Hamilton, first on pole, in a victory in which he took a lead of more than 20 seconds.

“I think it was the race of my life,” said Bottas after his fourth victory in Formula One, in which he also scored an extra point for making the fastest lap.

 

 

The Finn said he had found time to review his preparations and that he had brought a different mentality to Melbourne.

“Every year you learn as a person, you learn about yourself what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of preparation, which includes how you rest, how you spend your free time, how you do your training … All kinds of training,” he said.

“Something definitely changed in how I feel about things… but I felt good today in the car and yesterday and that’s all that matters.

 

The head of the Mercedes team, Toto Wolff, was one of many who reminded Bottas that only performance guaranteed a place in Formula 1, but the Austrian had to take off his hat on Sunday.

“Especially in the second half of the season, it was completely discarded,” Wolff said.

“People didn’t think he was ready, but he recovered in the best possible way, controlling everything over the weekend.

“When he came back after the winter, he said, ‘I’m back’. I think he regained the joy of driving and mentally stays strong.