Valtteri Bottas believes he is now ready to challenge Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the Formula 1 title, with the Finn using the extended break to grow both physically and mentally.
Bottas returned to the track in the 2018 Mercedes W09 at Silverstone on Tuesday, fresh from a long period away from the track.
“I really feel that this extra time, that was unexpected, made only good for me," Bottas told the Sky Sports F1 Vodcast.
"It’s just a rare time as a driver that you get so much time off and actually do different kinds of things, and also have time to focus on yourself, and growing yourself both physically and mentally."
In 2018, Bottas failed to score a single victory, finishing fifth in the driver standings while Hamilton took world title number five at a canter.
Fast-forward to 2019, and Valtteri 2.0 was born. Victories for Bottas in Australia and Azerbaijan gave Hamilton a fright - the two drivers sharing podiums in each of the first six grands prix, the first five being one-two finishes.
But although it is difficult to pinpoint a single moment where the challenge faded, the Finn never appeared to pose a genuine threat.
Now, Bottas believes he is ready to mount a season-long challenge.
He added: “It’s obviously going to be a pretty special season because obviously it’s going to be shorter than planned. Every mistake will cost you much more than previously, and it’s all about consistency.
“I feel that, with the things we’ve been working on with the team and my core engineering team, in terms of my driving style, I feel I have a couple of new things in my driving style toolbox that I can use.
“I proved that in Barcelona testing. I felt in some types of corners I made good steps and I’ve been focusing on that during lockdown driving other things.
“I just feel I’m more complete as a driver, and also physically, I’m peaking now, so hopefully that can really translate, but I’m very confident mentally. I’m in a good place and am going to go all out, no doubt.”
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