Valtteri Bottas says the extended break from racing has put him in a good place both physically and mentally, as he goes into the season feeling a “more complete driver”.
This year’s heavily-delayed Formula 1 season will get underway on July 5 for the opening round in Austria, marking seven months since the last race in Abu Dhabi last year.
With drivers not having turned a wheel in anger since winter testing in February, some teams have taken the opportunity to conduct private tests to get back up to speed.
Bottas, who drove the 2018 championship-winning Mercedes W09 at Silverstone last week, said the extra time off has allowed him to put more time in to improving his fitness.
“Three or four weeks ago, I did a fitness test that I normally do once or twice a year, and it was my best ever,” Bottas told Sky Sports F1.
“As a driver, you don’t get that many months normally to focus on your fitness, it’s normally just the winter break. But now it’s been an extended break, and I was really systematic on the training, and it was amazing to see the results and how good you feel.
“I really feel that this extra time off that was unexpected was only good for me. That’s a rare time that as a driver you get so much time off, and actually do different kinds of things, and also time to focus on yourself, improving yourself physically and mentally.”
Bottas comes off the back of his best-ever season in F1, where he claimed four victories – including the season opener in Australia – to finish runner-up in the 2019 standings.
With his sights set on clinching a maiden title, Bottas is aware the shortened campaign of 15-18 races puts greater pressure on drivers to iron out on-track errors.
“It’s obviously going to be a pretty special season, because it’s going to be shorter than the planned amount of races,” Bottas said.
“Every mistake will cost you much more than previously, and it’s all about the consistency.
“I feel with the things that we’ve been working on with the team and with my core engineering team in terms of my driving style, I have a couple of new things in my driving style toolbox that I could use.
“I could prove that in Barcelona testing, I could feel in some types of corners I made good steps, and I’ve been focusing on that during the lockdown, driving other things.
“I just feel I’m more complete as a driver, and physically I’m peaking now, so hopefully that can really translate.
“I’m really confident, mentally, and in a good place, and I’m going to go all-out, no doubt.”