Valtteri Bottas has revealed the mental blow he suffered in being asked to play a supporting role to Lewis Hamilton for the first time at Mercedes.
After five years with the F1 constructors' champions, the Finn has now left the Silver Arrows to link up with Alfa Romeo where his new task is to spearhead a charge up the grid for the ninth-best team from 2021 alongside Chinese rookie Guanyu Zhou.
Bottas was never able to match Hamilton across an entire season despite showing flashes of brilliance, often being forced to settle for second best.
Asked in an end-of-season interview with GPFans if he felt he was treated fairly during his time at Mercedes, Bottas replied: "I would say overall, yes.
"Especially always in the beginnings of the season until the halfway point for sure, very fairly.
"If there was a points gap, then naturally people and the team started to think it's most likely going to be this driver who's going to fight for the championship and not this one.
"I think just unconsciously, it can change the behaviour of some people and decision making, et cetera."
It was during his second season with the team and the 2018 Russian Grand Prix, in particular, when Bottas was asked to give up a win to aid Hamilton's title cause that he suffered the first damaging strike to his psyche.
"There's been also very clear cases that I've been in a support role, and I would say, the first time when that happened, probably 2018, it was really hard to accept," added Bottas. "It was pretty tough.
"That wasn't good for me mentally, the space I was in mentally. As time goes on, you accept it, if that's the situation, that you're behind in the points."
On whether he is now looking forward to becoming a team leader at Alfa Romeo, Bottas said: "Absolutely. It's one of the big reasons why [I made] this change, and I think I'm going to enjoy it.
"I'm definitely ready to take big responsibility. It's going to be crazy to think it's my 10th season in Formula 1 [this year] so I'm sure I can put into good use everything I've learned with Mercedes and Williams over there [with Alfa]."