Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas feels the retirement in Azerbaijan GP did not seal his fate in the 2018 F1 season but it was collective races which undone his title chances.

Even though Bottas did not win the first three races of the 2018 F1 season, the Finn was there on the podium in two of them – most importantly ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton to start on a good note. Things though started to take a bad turn from Baku onward.

The Azerbaijan GP saw a major hiccup when while leading the race, the Finn suffered a puncture which led to a retirement from a certain victory. He was still able to bounce back in the next few races – although again without getting that all-important win.

He started the Austrian GP on pole but lost the lead due to a poor getaway but fought back to be running second, closely behind Hamilton. However, a gearbox failure forced him to retire. He had another chance to win in Germany but team orders played against him.

Mercedes had asked Bottas to not fight Hamilton especially when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel crashed out – same played in Russia too. From then on, the Finn started to look off in terms of performance and the last five races showed it mostly as he finished fifth in all of them.

When asked by if the race in Baku eventually disrupted his performance in 2018 and mindset as well, Bottas felt it was not the case. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think my performance around [Baku] and before and after was same.

“It was just that the fact that there were many-many races in a row that I lost points for different reasons and that put a dot on the season. Obviously [later on], then it became a reality that I can’t fight for the title.”

Bottas has been criticised heavily for his performances in 2018 where he finished fifth, while in 2017 – on Mercedes debut – he managed to win races and finish third. The Finn admitted for lack of results but reveals the performance from 2017 only improved in 2018.

“I think the fact is, as a team, what we’ve analysed and what we spoke with the guys, qualifying pace and race pace, compared to my teammate, has been better this year on average, which is positive, but the results haven’t,” he said to the media.

“So, all those things, we need to analyse why the results weren’t there. Obviously sometimes it was unlucky, sometimes were different reasons. But I think performance-wise this year was better, but results-wise last year was better.”

Even though things did not go Bottas’ way several times, the Finn says he never thought he wasn’t strong enough to do this. “In this sport, when you’re kind of sometimes thinking of yourself, you’re thinking all kind of different things,” he said.

“The main thing is always the thought that I’ve got to be the strongest, and I’ve never told myself that I’m not good enough to do this. I still believe so, even though I feel disappointed for the season, I know that I can do much more than what this season proves, and that is the main thing.”