Valtteri Bottas plays down Lewis Hamilton ‘shadow’ claims with defiant stance on new era
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George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

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Valtteri Bottas believes his next chapter in Formula One will see him step out of any Lewis Hamilton ‘shadow’ after the Finn announced he would be racing for Alfa Romeo next season after five years at Mercedes.

In what has been described as Formula One’s ‘worst kept secret’ by championship leader Max Verstappen, George Russell will replace Bottas at the seven-time world champions, with the 31-year-old stepping down to take the place of Kimi Raikkonen.

Bottas has yet to beat Hamilton over a single season but has won nine races and contributed to four constructors’ titles at his stay with the British Based German team.

However, he has always been seen as the Briton’s wingman at the team.

But his future boss, Fred Vasseur, says the Finn will take up a new role at Alfa Romeo and will no longer “be in the shadow” of Hamilton when he joins the Swiss outfit in 2022.

“They won eight championships (four drivers for Hamilton and four constructors’) together,” Vasseur told F1.com. “He was always known as Lewis’ teammate. The new chapter with us is that he has to become the leader. I don’t want to have a situation of number one and number two but at least he won’t be in the shadow of someone.

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“He has to take the responsibility of the team on his shoulders. It could be a new chapter and I hope perhaps he will also benefit from this environment.”

And speaking to the media for the first time since the announcement during the press conference ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, Bottas embraced his new role.

“That’s why it’s really exciting and interesting for me, to be in that kind of role and try and help the team forward and work together,” said Bottas.

“I don’t know about the shadow, obviously if you look at the results overall, Lewis has been able to beat me every year, so in that sense, yes I have been in the shadow but I don’t really feel it that way.

“We are a team, and we are now in this together, unfortunately, I am not fighting for the drivers’ world championship anymore this year, I’m just fighting for the constructors and that’s the way it is.

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“But it’ll be a fresh start for me, and whoever my team-mate will be, I hope we can work well together, but it’s an interesting new era for me.”

Bottas also admitted he found out during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend that he would be replaced by Russell next season, with Hamilton branding the Finn as his “best team-mate I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

And when asked why he picked Alfa Romeo, Bottas responded: “Why? Because it’s exciting. It’s a great brand, they have a great history in motorsport, based on the information I know they can have a bright future, and hopefully, I can help that.

“It’s something new, it’s something exciting for me and a bit of a project, no doubt there will be work to do but I will give all my expertise I can to try and improve from this season.

“Yes I did talk to some other teams, I don’t want to say names, but in the end that was the way I wanted to go and I’m glad we could make it happen, thankful for them to trust that I’m going to be the right fit for the team.”

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