Valtteri Bottas has described how he was in a "state of denial" when racing alongside Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Following Nico Rosberg's shock retirement after winning the 2016 title, Bottas was signed as his replacement, and would go onto win 10 Grands Prix in his five-year stay with the team, who also claimed five Constructors' titles.
Bottas was able to defeat Hamilton over a single lap in qualifying about one-third of the time, but was unable to match the Briton across a full-season in races, with his best finish in the championship being runner-up in 2019 and 2020.
Hamilton claimed four of the five titles on offer while Bottas was at Mercedes, with the Finn electing to depart after the 2021 season to Alfa Romeo-Sauber, with the extra security of a long-term contract in place, in a departure from one-year deals at Mercedes.
Reflecting on how hard it was to be Hamilton's team-mate, Bottas explained how he needed to be in denial to compete.
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"You have to be in denial, and I was in denial for almost five years because every year, I wanted to get back to the season and then fight for the title and I had to believe in myself," the Finn explained whilst speaking to Motorsport.com.
"It was only when I knew that I was leaving the team then that I noticed that I was a bit more fine with certain things.
“With Lewis, only in the last year could I accept to myself that in equal machinery over a period of a full season, I really struggled to beat him and that he's probably better in certain areas.
"As a racing driver, to admit that to yourself, is hard.
"I have no regrets because it was a tricky situation for me because I was every year on a one-year contract.
"I knew that if I wanted to fight for the title, I needed to be buried in this team. If I started to be an a**ehole, I would lose my job pretty easily. They could always get someone else."